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The Ministry of Tourism has provided 10,000 masks for frontline industry workers as part of safeguards against the novel Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), when the sector reopens.

The masks, one element of the personal protective equipment (PPE) used in the fight against COVID-19, were handed over to industry representatives by Portfolio Minister, Hon. Edmund Bartlett.

The presentation was made during a virtual ceremony at the Ministry’s offices in New Kingston on Friday (May 29).

“We are recommending that all the workers of the tourism industry should wear their mask. The Prime Minister [the Most Hon. Andrew Holness] has already made that a condition for all of us, and the medical fraternity has supported that; so we want to assist in ensuring full compliance,” Minister Bartlett said.

The wearing of masks in public spaces globally has been recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centre for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC), as part of measures to contain the spread of COVID-19.

According to Mr. Bartlett, this latest initiative, being undertaken through the Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo) and Tourism Linkages Network, a division of the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF), is another Ministry intervention aimed at safeguarding workers’ wellbeing.

“We are spending just a little over $5 million in this exercise and we are excited that it will do a number of things,” he said.

The Minister explained that not only will the initiative facilitate the provision of much-needed protective cover, but will contribute to economic sustainability by generating opportunities for small enterprises to create a cottage industry through the making of masks.

“So far, we have some 22 small entrepreneurs who are making masks for us to make up this 10,000, and we are going to add some more as we go along,” he informed.

Mr. Bartlett also explained that due to the industry’s vulnerability to pandemics and epidemics, rigorous development of safeguards, such as screenings, is consistently being undertaken to protect locals and visitors.

He said that until a vaccine is found “we have the responsibility to manage the risk that this virus is causing in our own space and build layers… of protection so that the risk can be reduced”.

“The Ministry of Tourism continues to create innovative and game changing policies and strategies while we manage the virus. We are committed to making sure that of all the people who have to interface with the industry… that the workers, in particular, are protected because they are our frontline people,” Minister Bartlett added.

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