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  • Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton, says Ministry officials acted in accordance with the law by preventing a cruise ship from docking at the Ocho Rios port on Tuesday (February 25).
  • The ship had had an undisclosed crew member on board, who was in isolation for a health-related condition.
  • Speaking during a media briefing at the Ministry’s offices in New Kingston on Thursday (February 27), Dr. Tufton said the ship’s management failed to indicate in their report filed prior to docking that they had a case that could have been considered a health-related threat, in accordance with stipulations under Jamaica’s Quarantine Act, 1951.

Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton, says Ministry officials acted in accordance with the law by preventing a cruise ship from docking at the Ocho Rios port on Tuesday (February 25).

The ship had had an undisclosed crew member on board, who was in isolation for a health-related condition.

Speaking during a media briefing at the Ministry’s offices in New Kingston on Thursday (February 27), Dr. Tufton said the ship’s management failed to indicate in their report filed prior to docking that they had a case that could have been considered a health-related threat, in accordance with stipulations under Jamaica’s Quarantine Act, 1951.

“The vessel arrived at approximately 8:30 a.m. and, upon inspection by port health officials, it was discovered that the crew member had been put in isolation. The crew member had a cough, fever and associated muscle pains, together with a travel history to a country of interest related to COVID-19 [the novel coronavirus],” he noted.

This, the Minister pointed out, constituted a breach of protocol under the Act, which he noted, provides a “well-established system for the protection of our seaports”.

Dr. Tufton said the health team requested additional particulars on the patient, including the person’s clinical history, in order to “make the appropriate assessment”. He pointed out, however, that that information “took some time” to be produced.

He said that in light of the decision by the ship’s management to isolate the officer, “recognising the threat posed to the other members of the vessel,” coupled with the late notification and breach of protocol in not initially providing the information, “a decision was taken that… it was in the best interest of our country and people [that] the vessel continue on to its next port [of call]”.

While acknowledging the importance of the cruise industry to Jamaica, Dr. Tufton said that the Government “has an obligation to protect the health and safety of our citizens, in the first instance”. 

“We acted in accordance with our fiduciary responsibility to provide protection, in the first instance, to our population, and we are prepared to do it again if the rules are not followed, because that’s the right thing to do,” he stressed.

Dr. Tufton said he has discussed the matter with Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, and other members of the Cabinet, including Tourism Minister, Hon. Edmund Bartlett, and has written to the Port Authority of Jamaica.

 “So, ongoing discussions are taking place. We have additional discussions at the regional level with CARICOM and the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA). So a lot has taken place over the last couple of days in terms of just trying to appreciate what is happening and what the risks are,” the Minister said.

 “So there is a balancing act that has to be played out. Keeping the region safe and free of a virus such as this one [COVID-19] will, hopefully, attract tourists, but, ultimately, it has to come down to the health of our people,” he underscored.

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