Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton, says the Ministry is putting together the final touches to the COVID-19 Recovery Plan.
“The Government has recognised that the COVID response has to change from trying to prevent COVID from spreading, but on living with COVID… how do we ensure normal life,” Dr. Tufton said.
“Living with COVID requires a set of protocols that are going to require behavioural change and also infrastructure and capacity to enable a risk mitigation series that is holistic and that allows us to live while preventing or reducing the risk of contamination and the extreme conditions,” he added.
The Minister was speaking at the handover ceremony for the donation of items by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for Jamaica’s COVID-19 response, held on July 16 at the National Public Health Laboratory in Kingston.
The donation, valued at €180,000, consists of reagents and supplies and equipment, including a microcentrifuge, thermocycler, real-time polymerase chain reaction (real-time PCR), 2D barcode and variable single channel pipette scanner.
Dr. Tufton said the Recovery Plan, which will be tabled shortly in the Houses of Parliament, is an eight-point plan to strengthen laboratory systems to respond to COVID-19 and other infectious diseases.
“[We are also looking at] enhancing our national system, including all relevant sectors capable of safely and accurately detecting and characterising pathogens causing epidemic diseases, including both known and unknown threats,” he said.
He informed that over the next 12 months, the aim is develop a national laboratory policy; develop proficiency in classic diagnostic techniques; procure equipment to boost the capacity at the National Influenza Centre; and train staff to achieve competency in PCR testing.
Additionally, the aim is to also strengthen the laboratory information system, have an expanded deployment and utilisation of appropriate tests, and develop molecular testing capabilities to provide timely access to new testing protocols for new and emerging pathogens.
For his part, United States (US) Ambassador to Jamaica, His Excellency Donald Tapia, noted that the global community must work together to combat COVID-19.
“This donation builds on the over US$2 million that the United States government has already provided to Jamaica in its effort to combat COVID-19, and is made possible through the United States support of the IAEA,” Mr. Tapia said.
“It is an example of our commitment to global health security and our continued partnership with our Jamaican counterpart to ensure that the spread of the coronavirus disease is detected and contained across the island,” he added.
In her remarks, Director, National Public Health Laboratory, Dr. Michelle Hamilton, welcomed the donation, noting that it will enhance the capacity of the national laboratory services.
Meanwhile, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator the Hon. Kamina Johnson Smith, said amidst its own challenges, the US has once again demonstrated the value of the friendship and partnership that has characterised the longstanding US/Jamaica relations.
“In times of crisis, we have always been able to rely on the assurance of support from our closest friends and this has been demonstrated amply today,” Senator Johnson Smith said.
She added that Jamaica’s ability to weather the COVID-19 storm has been greatly enhanced by early and wide-ranging support provided by the US, which mobilised significant resources, through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).