STATEMENT BY THE PRIME MINISTER MOST HON. PORTIA SIMPSON MILLER ON, MP AT MEDIA BRIEFING OF NATIONAL RESPONSE MECHANISM TO CHIKV OUTBREAK,
Thursday, October 9, 2014
Ladies and gentlemen, good morning.
Last week, I activated the National Response Mechanism in an effort to channel more resources – both human and financial – to dealing with the current Chikungunya outbreak in the country. This outbreak is a serious health emergency which is causing pain and discomfort for a large number of Jamaicans. It also has many far-reaching implications for our society and economy.
The Ministry of Health is the lead technical organisation in the ChikV Response with the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) being the national coordinating agency for the response.
Several other agencies are involved in the National Response Mechanism, including the JDF, Police, the National Solid Waste Management Authority, Parish and Municipal Councils, the Social Development Commission and the Jamaica Fire Brigade, among others.
The national response is supporting the public education campaign of the Health Ministry and leading a national clean-up exercise. The main area of emphasis is the only sustainable way of reducing the spread of the virus: that is, reducing the breeding of mosquitoes by destroying their breeding sites.
Parish emergency operations centres and public health committees have been activated to lead parish-level coordination of cleanup activities.
Some Parish Councils have already started cleanup work and the Government has identified funding to begin a sustained clean-up exercise starting in the worst affected areas.
That exercise is being coordinated by a team led by Colonel Daniel Pryce of the JDF.
The central monitoring team is chaired by the Minister of Information and includes the Acting Head of ODPEM, Mr. Richard Thompson; Coordinator of the JEEP programme, Ms. Stella Brodber; the Acting Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Marion Bullock-DuCasse and a nominee from the Ministry of Finance and Planning.
The NSWMA will also play a critical role to ensure that garbage collected in the cleanup will be removed from communities in a timely manner. During this period the agency will expand its collection to include tree cuttings and shrubs.
Our main focus is assisting Jamaicans in our communities to clean up our surroundings and reduce mosquito breeding. This is an urgent national task that must involve everybody. Our responsibility to ourselves, our families and our country requires our personal involvement for the long haul.
Let us keep our homes free of places where mosquitos can breed. Listen to the health warnings from the Ministry of Health and follow them. Do little things like punching holes in containers before appropriately discarding them.
There are some areas in the country which have not yet been severely affected by the outbreak. This is no reason for complacency.
I have led the start of a concerted cleanup in sections of my own constituency. I thank my constituents, and the many Jamaicans across the country who have responded to the call for ongoing community cleanup. The vigilance must continue and must involve all companies and organisations such as schools and churches.
I know that the Health authorities have been conducting ongoing mosquito fogging. This kills only adult mosquitoes, hence the need for a national campaign to reduce mosquito breeding is an imperative. The Local Health Authorities have been on the ground identifying such breeding sites.
Although the country is operating in a tight financial situation, the Government is treating the situation with the urgency it requires, and is allocating additional financial resources to tackle the problem.
Last week I announced that 150 Million Dollars was allocated to the response effort. A total of 500 Million dollars is now available for the current national health emergency response, including cleanup activities and other urgent needs of the Ministry of Health.
The increased expenditure is a step in the right direction, but this is not a problem that will be solved by only money.
Ridding the country of mosquitoes which spread the CHIKV is also not a fight which the Government can undertake by itself. And, while the Government is committed to doing everything it can to contain the spread of the virus and protect the population, our citizens also have a responsibility and a role to play.
I call on every single Jamaican to get involved by keeping their surroundings free of debris and materials which serve as breeding sites for mosquitoes.
At the same time, I want to assure the country that there are enough supplies of paracetamol available free of cost at all public health facilities in addition to the supplies at private retail outlets. Therefore, there is no need for any unreasonable increase in the price of the commodity.
At the same time, some health centres in the South East Regional Health Authority will have extended opening hours, with new opening hours being from 8 am to 8pm.
The centres include:
In St. Thomas: Morant Bay and Seaforth
In Kingston and St. Andrew – Hagley Park
Olympic Gardens Duhaney Park Windward Road Maxfield Park
And in St. Catherine – St. Jago Park
Many organisations have been doing their part to assist the ongoing response. I want to commend the RJR Communication Group for example, for its own public education initiative on its television and radio stations. Digicel, LIME and Anbell Media have also come on board to help in getting public education messages out and I thank them.
The Social Development Commission has mobilized its islandwide network to help identify mosquito breeding sites, assist with cleanup activities, as well as to take vital public education materials into communities.
I thank the many partners of the National Emergency Response Team – the JDF, the Police, the Fire Department, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of National Security, Ministry of Local Government, the Ministry of Finance and Planning, the Parish Councils, ODPEM, SDC NSWMA, the Red Cross, the National Emergency Geographic Information System Response Team and the Jamaica Information Service.
The government remains fully committed to containing this ChikV outbreak. The National Response Mechanism as well as the Ministry of Health will continue to provide the country with regular and on-going updates on the situation.
EBOLA PREVENTION PLANNING
Even as we mount a coordinated national response to the ChikV outbreak, I know that many Jamaicans are understandably very concerned about the global situation involving the Ebola Virus.
I want to use this opportunity to assure the public, that the Jamaican authorities have stepped up the pace of systematic planning for the prevention of the Ebola virus in the country and for effective management should the virus present itself in the island.
The Ministry of Health is the lead agency for the contingency planning and for the country’s health emergency response should the need arise and I hope that need doesn’t arise. The Acting Permanent Secretary in the Health Ministry, Dr. Kevin Harvey is the country’s lead technical official for the Ebola prevention and response action plan. He is ably supported by the Acting Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Marion Bullock DuCasse and their technical team.
The Ebola Contingency Action Plan includes the Ministry of Health and ODPEM receiving logistics coordination support from the Jamaica Defence Force and public safety and law and order enforcement support from the Jamaica Constabulary Force. The Chief of Defence Staff, the Commissioner of Police and the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of National Security are among the stakeholder officials who have been briefed on the situation by the Ministry of Health.
Other stakeholder entities central to the Inter-Ministerial and multi-agency Ebola prevention and management response planning include, but are not limited to, the Office of the Prime Minister; the Passport, Immigration and Citizenship Agency; the Port Authority of Jamaica; Airports Authority of Jamaica; Jamaica Customs; the Coast Guard; the Jamaica Fire Brigade and the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Finance and Planning, Local Government and Community Development and Transport, Works and Housing.
Sensitisation and refresher training on operating procedures and protocols will be held with entities and professionals earmarked as first responders in any possible Ebola health emergency.
These professionals include health care workers at all levels, soldiers, the police, private security providers, airline staff, fire fighters, cleaning service managers and workers, and airport and seaport workers among others. Additionally, operators and staff of funeral homes, journalists, media managers, hotel management and staff, workers unions, and churches are among other identified key stakeholders in this exercise.
Again I want to commend another media house – the Gleaner Company – for its front page Ebola updates to the public daily.
Meanwhile the Ministry of Health is assuring the country that an adequate stock of various levels of protective gear for emergency responders, including health care workers, is currently in Jamaica. Additional supplies are available for immediate delivery by international partners through arrangements in place. Quarantine facilities and equipped medical isolation wards are also being established.
At the same time we have initiated efforts to acquire necessary screening equipment for the island’s ports of entry.
We have also engaged our various international partners to assist Jamaica with our prevention planning, response preparedness and surveillance.
I have personally met and held discussions with one of our key international partners, which has a strong track record of planning and responding to emergencies such as this.
Jamaicans are being encouraged to take action as part of our personal responsibility in this situation. Avoid travelling to Ebola affected countries and regions, and truthfully declare your travel history when arriving and departing the island.
I want to commend some of our entertainers who have cancelled planned international tours to affected countries and regions with all the financial sacrifice and legal contractual implications that such cancellations involve.
At the same time, screening and advance passenger list examination at our ports of entry continue to be major elements of the country’s Ebola surveillance system.
Ladies and gentlemen of the media, I thought I would take the time to bring you and the country up to date with the efforts of your Government in planning and responding to the current health emergencies.
Protect yourselves and stay healthy.