Jamaica will be closing its Consulate General in New York, and the consular departments in Washington DC and London for one week starting on Monday (March 16), due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator the Hon. Kamina Johnson Smith, in making the announcement at a press briefing at the Office of the Prime Minister on Thursday (March 12), said that the situation will be monitored to see if further extension is required.
“This is a precautionary measure to protect persons from spreading the virus, by limiting nationals having to gather to access services in person and, of course, the transit to our relevant missions,” she noted.
She said that the Ministry has mandated all High Commissions, Embassies and Consulates to assess the risk posed by the spread of the virus in their respective locations and to make appropriate adjustments to their operations.
“This should include not only the provision of appropriate sanitary products at the locations but the adjustment of opening hours, implementation of remote working arrangements and any other appropriate safety measures,” she noted.
“Their responses are at different stages and we will make decisions based on the respective situational analysis and priorities,” she added.
In the interim, Senator Johnson Smith said, “we are recommending the use of online passport and mail-in applications and other services, as well as telephone enquiries where appropriate”.
Other adjustments include staggering the working hours for members of staff who use public transportation in areas where there has been an outbreak.
“This is intended to ensure that they don’t have to be confined at close quarters during the rush hour given the risks at play,” Senator Johnson Smith noted.
In the meantime, the Minister indicated that all overseas staff have been advised that no approvals will be granted for non-essential travel until further notice in keeping with the travel restriction policy for government workers.