The Government has received approximately $262 million (¥200 million) in grant aid from Japan to purchase much-needed medical equipment and supplies in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Among these items are: bedside X-ray machines and monitors; X-ray protection screens and aprons; ultrasound scanners; and defibrillators.
The grant is being provided through the Japanese Government’s Economic and Social Development Programme.
Minister of Finance and the Public Service, Dr. the Hon. Nigel Clarke and Japan’s Ambassador to Jamaica, His Excellency Hiromasa Yamazaki, signed documents formalising the arrangement during a brief digital ceremony at the Ministry’s offices in Kingston on Tuesday (June 16).
Dr. Clarke said the grant will enable the Government, through the Ministry of Health and Wellness, to improve its capacity to manage the COVID-19 caseload.
“Specifically, the public health facilities across Jamaica will be able to procure medical equipment that will allow for the treatment of cases,” he pointed out.
Dr. Clarke said that while Japan is experiencing its own challenges with COVID-19, the government has taken the time “to think about the needs of a small country, like Jamaica,” citing this as “a testimony to the strength and durability of the J-J (Jamaica-Japan) partnership”.
“We are very grateful to the Government and people of Japan for this grant. This follows on a long tradition of social and economic support from the Government of Japan to Jamaica,” he added.
Ambassador Yamasaki, in his remarks, said since the pandemic’s onset, the Embassy of Japan has been working closely with the Government “to identify how best we could provide assistance for Jamaica’s health system, in order to combat this infectious disease.”
“The goal of the Government of Japan is to enable all the people in the world to enjoy greater opportunities afforded by a safe and secure environment,” he said.
Ambassador Yamasaki assured that the people and Government of Japan “stand in solidarity with the people and Government of Jamaica” in this regard.
Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator the Hon. Kamina Johnson Smith, who witnessed the signing, said that the grant assistance represents another “positive development” in the longstanding and dynamic relationship between the countries.
“In fact, the supplies will, undoubtedly make a sustainable positive impact on our public health infrastructure,” she noted.
Senator Johnson said that as the Government reinforces its management of the pandemic, “we are particularly pleased to work with a partner like Japan, a recognised global leader in disaster risk management, response and recovery… a partner that recognises the value in investing in economic and social development”.
Chief Medical Officer in the Ministry of Health and Wellness, Dr. Jacquiline Bisasor-McKenzie, welcomed the support from Japan at a time when travel restrictions are being lifted to allow non-nationals into the country as well as enable Jamaicans travelling overseas, to return home.
While noting that limiting the spread of COVID-19 has been a focus of the interventions, so far, she said that Jamaica is now making the transition to living with the virus.
Against this background, she said that the health system must be equipped to sustain the existing measures and manage more cases, while continuing routine and emergency care for non-COVID patients.
Dr. Bisasor-McKenzie said the support from the Government of Japan will enable the Health Ministry to “strengthen its role as we transition”.
“The signing and exchange of notes between both governments underscores the importance of partnerships and international cooperation, even during times of crisis. Jamaica remains hopeful that, as a nation, we can fight this disease… and will require all hands on deck,” she added.