Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, says he believes the Government has “taken all the necessary measures” to ensure that confirmed Coronavirus (COVID-19) cases are contained, and new infections minimised.
These interventions include a $10-billion budgetary provision, identifying and establishing quarantine and isolation health facilities, quarantining persons suspected of contracting the virus and isolating confirmed cases, and equipping health facilities and personnel with the requisite resources to deal with COVID-19 cases.
“This Administration has, so far, placed Jamaica on a good footing to be on the path of slower spread and lower infections… we are on the flatter epidemic curve. We will, however, have to remain vigilant and sufficiently responsive to adjust measures as necessary,” the Prime Minister said.
He was making his 2020/21 Budget Debate presentation in the House of Representatives, on Thursday (March 19), under the theme ‘Towards a Decade of Growth to Anchor Our Peace, Prosperity and Resilience’.
Mr. Holness said while the Administration has also been exploring various channels of international cooperation, and appreciates all offers and potential cooperative efforts being pursued with its valued partners, “[we have] determined that we could not base our response on a dependence on other countries’ goodwill”.
Against this background, he said the Government stands ready to allocate more funds from contingency provisions to combat the outbreak, should it be required.
Meanwhile, Mr. Holness said interventions, such as flattening the COVID-19 curve, represent only one-half of the Government’s strategic response to health crises.
He noted that the Administration is cognisant that global pandemics “may well be a recurring disruption with greater frequency in an increasingly connected world with a growing population”.
The Prime Minister assured that the Government remains committed to building a robust health service with the capacity and capabilities to respond to the population’s current and future health demands.
“We recognise that the current capacity of the health sector is already stretched with the burden of existing demands, including the outbreak of Dengue, which is still a major call on our resources,” he added.
Mr. Holness said prior to Jamaica’s first confirmed COVID-19 case, the Ministry of Health and Wellness had developed a comprehensive plan, looking at various infection outbreak scenarios and mitigating actions.
He said the plan, which was presented to, and approved by the National Disaster Risk Management Council, was costed and a $2-billion budget prepared and approved by Cabinet.
“These funds were, therefore, available and have started to be used to increase the existing response capacity of the health system,” the Prime Minister added.
Among these resources, he outlined, are the acquisition of 400,000 masks and other personal protective equipment for health workers; more than $150 million being spent to develop new quarantine sites to house an additional 150 persons; more than $287 million now being spent to retrofit various hospitals and health facilities to create the capacity to accommodate patients during the peak of the epidemic; $198 million being used to purchase equipment, inclusive of ventilators for the High Dependency Units in various hospitals; and $547 million being expended to procure drugs to treat persons contracting COVID-19.
Prime Minister Holness acknowledged, however, “no plan is perfect and there are always faults with implementation”.
“I am, therefore, open to criticism and advice on improvement of our response… we all are,” he said.