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  • Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton, says the National Disaster Response Committee, which is chaired by Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, has been designated to spearhead overall coordination of Jamaica’s preparedness for the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19).
  • Dr. Tufton, who noted that the body is the point of reference for matters of a critical nature, such as COVID-19, said its designation is in keeping with Cabinet instructions that a National Coordinating Committee be established.
  • The Committee, which is co-chaired by Minister of Local Government and Community Development, Hon. Desmond McKenzie, comprises a wide cross-section of stakeholders, including members of industry, the public sector, and civil society.  

Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton, says the National Disaster Response Committee, which is chaired by Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, has been designated to spearhead overall coordination of Jamaica’s preparedness for the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19).

Dr. Tufton, who noted that the body is the point of reference for matters of a critical nature, such as COVID-19, said its designation is in keeping with Cabinet instructions that a National Coordinating Committee be established.

The Committee, which is co-chaired by Minister of Local Government and Community Development, Hon. Desmond McKenzie, comprises a wide cross-section of stakeholders, including members of industry, the public sector, and civil society.  

Speaking at a media briefing at the Health Ministry’s offices in New Kingston, on February 27, Dr. Tufton advised that the Prime Minister is slated to convene a meeting of the committee with relevant stakeholders early next week, to get an update of the extent of the public health system’s readiness.

Dr. Tufton indicated that the meeting is expected to focus specifically on measures to prevent COVID-19’s onset locally, in the first instance, “but in the second case, in the event that it should, what would be some of the [additional] measures that would have to be put in place for our own protection.”

Among the interventions already undertaken are: restrictions on travel between Jamaica and five countries – the People’s Republic of China, where the initial COVID-19 outbreak occurred; Italy, the Republic of Korea (South Korea), Iran, and Singapore.  

Additionally, monitoring and screening at the island’s ports of entry of persons coming to Jamaica from countries where there have been COVID-19 outbreaks have been ramped up, with isolation and quarantine protocols being instituted where deemed necessary.   

Director General of the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ), Dr. Wayne Henry, has emphasised the potential impact which the virus’ transmission could have on Jamaica.

Speaking at the PIOJ’s quarterly briefing at the Institute’s head office in New Kingston on February 25, Dr. Henry said from an economic perspective, the impact would be transmitted basically through trade and financial flows.

“This is primarily because of travel restrictions implemented to stem the spread of the virus, as well as the impact of the slowdown in the Chinese economy on global trade and investment flows,” he outlined.

Meanwhile, Dr. Tufton emphasised that as a nation, “we have to prepare ourselves, both to prevent, but also to manage [the situation].”

He pointed out that the rate of COVID-19’s spread from country to country “is indicative of a virus that will eventually morph into, as is now being described, a pandemic.”

“This means that it will touch down on all the different hemispheres of the world, and ultimately affect most countries of the world, and that could include Jamaica,” the Minister said.

“I want to reassure the public that whatever decision(s) we take will be in the best interest of the greater good of our society… and we assure and reassure you [that] the government of the day is of that mindset,” Dr. Tufton added.

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