JIS News

The Ministry of Health and Wellness is undertaking community consultations aimed at engaging stakeholders at the parish level in the process of heightening public awareness and adherence to the coronavirus (COVID-19) infection-prevention measures.

The first in the series of meetings was held digitally on Wednesday (September 30) with representatives of civic, business and community groups, among others, in Manchester.

Portfolio Minister, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton, who addressed the session, underscored the importance of the outreach, particularly as the country has entered the community transmission phase of COVID-19.

“We are now in a phase of the virus where it requires an ‘all of society’ approach, more than any other phase. It requires every person to firstly recognise the phase that we are in and for everyone to define a role for themselves as part of their own coping mechanisms, but also, importantly, to help others to cope,” he said.

Dr. Tufton said that the engagement of community interests forms part of a plan to address mental health challenges being experienced by individuals impacted by the containment measures, such as the restrictions on movement.

“Mental health, for me, is a big concern, because I am seeing enough to suggest that the state of mind of many persons is being affected significantly by COVID-19,” he said.

He noted that “there are some very deliberate strategies that we have to implement,” among them working with community leaders and influencers to assist in protecting vulnerable citizens, including the elderly and sick.

The Minister also emphasised the importance of encouraging compliance with the safeguards such as the wearing of masks in public spaces, handwashing and sanitising, temperature checks, physical distancing, and adhering to protocols around how business is conducted.

“What we are doing is attempting to change behaviour… to get people to comply with and follow the protocols. We want to build an army [of volunteers] at the parish level that will filter out through health districts, based on where they reside, and arm them with some basic information and with the support of community health aides, to use them to become part of the influencers in the society,” he outlined.

Dr. Tufton contended that while the onus is largely on the Ministry to drive the COVID-19 safeguards and protocols, “the Reverend living in the community or the community youth leader reaching out may [have greater influence] at that level… and we want to encourage that kind of participation”.

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