Mayor of St. Ann’s Bay, Councillor Sydney Stewart, says that an all-hands-on-deck approach is being employed in tackling the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in St. Ann.
He told JIS News that the St. Ann Municipal Corporation has been working with the health department and other public and private-sector stakeholders to ensure that there is greater adherence to the health and safety protocols.
“We have truly been working hard to put the enforcement measures in place to safeguard the parish from those who are still hell-bent on violating safety protocols in relation to COVID-19,” he noted.
He said it is imperative that there continue to be a united front by all stakeholders, with the ultimate goal of “keeping the virus in check and protecting our people as best as possible”.
St. Ann has been seeing a rise in COVID-19 cases in recent months. Up to Saturday (January 30), the parish had recorded a total of 1,031 cases, to date, 291 of these since December 22.
Acting Medical Officer of Health for St. Ann, Dr. Tamika Henry, blamed the spike on the flouting of the health and safety guidelines by some residents.
She said the evidence is also showing that relatives visiting from abroad have not been adhering to the protocols.
Dr., Henry pointed out that St. Ann has the second highest rate of infection per 100,000 people and could easily become a major COVID-19 hotspot if attitudes and behavioral changes are not made an immediate priority.
She said that persons need to be more vigilant in their approach to dealing with the virus, noting that there are too many cases of persons showing a blatant disregard for protocols, putting themselves and others at risk to a pandemic “that has no respect for class or status”.
“A case in point is our taxi drivers. They have to ensure that not only do they turn off their air conditioner and drive with their windows down but they also have to ensure that their passengers are wearing masks,” she said.
Dr. Henry noted further that with working-age persons accounting for more than 60 per cent of the COVID-19 cases in St Ann, there are concerns that this will negatively impact the parish’s economy.
“Our 25 to 44 age group accounts for approximately 40 per cent of our COVID-19 cases. Our 45 to 64 age group accounts for approximately 26 per cent of our cases, and so you can see that we are going to the 60s in terms of our working-age population being affected,” she outlined.
“It should also be noted that when these persons are affected they have to stop working, and so our industries, our commercial centres, our business places are suffering,” she noted further.
For his part, Chairman of the St. Ann’s Bay Hospital and Councillor for the Ocho Rios Division, Michael Belnavis, said that a united approach “is the only way we are going to effectively combat the virus”.
“No one agency or entity can deal with this scourge,” he told JIS News. “We will have to work together in unison to deal with this pandemic… and to ensure that St. Ann, with its heavy reliance on tourism and as a major contributor to Jamaica’s economy… doesn’t fall into that danger zone,” he noted.
Mr. Belnavis said that the recent surge in cases in St. Ann is a clear cause for concern, noting that there can be “no easing up” on protocols and safety guidelines at this time.
“There are still those who have not been adhering to the health and safety guidelines and who continue to take the cavalier approach that COVID is no longer a clear and present danger,” he noted.
“We were doing very well for a while and cannot continue to take our feet off the brakes and open the floodgates. The requirements are simple – wear your mask and continue to practise social distancing,” he said.