Ja braces for increase COVID cases as borders open

June 01, 2020
Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton (left)  and  Prime Minister Andrew Holness.
Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton (left) and Prime Minister Andrew Holness.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness says that there is likely to be an increase in the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases on the island, now that the Government is opening its borders. Starting today, until June 14, all persons seeking to re-enter Jamaica would be subject to testing, except for those entering from a country with low COVID-19 rates and having similar infection control systems like Jamaica.

Persons seeking to enter Jamaica from countries within this 'travel bubble' may not need to be tested on arrival. However, they would be subject to screening including temperature checks for symptoms.

"As we increase the rate of repatriation of Jamaicans and then move to allow non-nationals, effective June 15, to visit Jamaica, we recognise that even with the best will and the most faithful implementation of measures, there is likely to be an increase in our confirmed cases," Holness said.

The number of COVID-19 cases on the island stood at 586 yesterday. Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton says the numbers may increase with the opening of the country's borders.

"Our COVID numbers will go up and there will be the increased likelihood of community spread, even with testing and the 14-day home quarantine," he said.

He said that between March 10, when the first case was detected on the island, and May 6, Jamaica had 34 imported cases of COVID-19. He said that since restrictions were relaxed and a controlled re-entry programme was put in place starting May 6, there have been 55 imported cases of the diseases based on the lifting of those restrictions.

Starting this week

"What is very clear is that with further lifting of restrictions that will take place starting this week and beyond, we are going to see cases grow exponentially," the health minister said.

Meanwhile, the prime minister said that all returning residents must go through a sensitisation programme with a public health official, utilising flyers and audiovisuals. The Government is also considering a pledge document which returning residents would need to sign to show good faith, and, as a promise, that they will observe the protocols. Based on their health status and risk assessment by a public health officer, they may be subjected to a mandatory 14-day quarantine.

The prime minister said that it is imperative that further steps be taken towards the full reopening of the economy, adding that Jamaica, like most countries globally, has suffered a severe setback as a result of the pandemic.

- R.L.

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