The Ministries of Health and Wellness and Local Government and Community Development are working on plans for the effective management of shelters and the protection of the vulnerable population during the hurricane season.
Among the objectives is to ensure that social distancing is maintained in order to prevent an outbreak of the coronavirus (COVD-19).
“As we live with COVID-19 going forward, the social distancing that we have been preaching will have to be implemented within the shelters,” said Acting Director of Emergency Medical Services in the Ministry of Health and Wellness, Dr. Kurdell Espinosa Campbell.
She said that persons accessing the facilities and healthcare workers must be safeguarded so that they are not infected if there is an asymptomatic case.
She was speaking at a recent virtual town hall organised by the Local Government Ministry to discuss the COVID-19 response for the hurricane season.
Dr. Espinosa Campbell said that the Ministry is responsible for providing guidelines regarding spacing intervals between persons, infection prevention measures, and maintaining hygienic practices within the spaces, including waste disposal.
She explained that the spacing recommendation for persons seeking shelter for less than 18 hours is a minimum of four and half feet. For persons seeking long-term shelter, the spacing is six feet apart with family members being grouped close together.
The Ministry of Health and Wellness is also making recommendations for the creation of isolation areas at shelters, which will be integrated into the parish disaster plan of each municipal council.
Local Government Minister, Hon. Desmond McKenzie, said that data collected by participants in its Youth Summer Employment Programme are being utilised in making special arrangements for the elderly and vulnerable population.
These groups will be separated from the general shelter population.
Acting Director General of the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM), Richard Thompson, for his part, said that protocols for the operation of the shelters are being worked on with the local authorities and the Ministry of Health and Wellness.
“Shelters, in general, are crowded spaces in normal times and all those considerations have been taken into account. We have approximately 887 shelters – that number would have to be looked at. We have roughly 204 that we consider priority shelters that persons use all the time – those numbers are being looked at,” he noted. The Local Government Ministry has upgraded the storage facility at two shelters in Staceyville and Portland Cottage, Clarendon to ensure adequate relief supplies in the event of a disaster.
The Ministry plans to carry out infrastructure upgrade at other shelters in vulnerable communities.