Minister of Health and Wellness Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton, on Thursday (December 30) handed over 5,000 COVID-19 home testing kits to the Jamaica Hotel & Tourist Association (JHTA) for workers in the tourism sector.
Dr. Tufton handed over the kits at the Montego Bay Convention Centre in Rose Hall, St. James, where he outlined that it is imperative that workers in the tourism industry be given the opportunity to self-test for COVID-19, given their exposure.
He said the tourism sector is the first of a range of critical local sectors that will receive the kits, noting that the Government intends to purchase some 40,000 kits valued at approximately $56 million.
“The Government views the tourism sector as a very important part of our economic fabric. It is in keeping with balancing lives and livelihoods, [and] we appreciate and understand the importance of ensuring sustainability and continuity in the sector,” Dr. Tufton explained.
“We also understand the risks given the need for the sector to survive based on the comings and goings, and therefore the approach in targeting tourism workers in the initial stage justifies itself, based on its importance and also balancing those risks involved in the tourists who come in,” he added.
The Minister indicated that through self-testing, persons can determine whether they need to see a doctor for further assessment or whether they should self-isolate or advise others with whom they have interacted to take precautions.
He stated that the Government is currently working to have these kits available commercially for every Jamaican.
“These kits, once approval is granted to be imported, are not going to be distributed by any specialised entity. We can and hope that these kits will be available in the marketplace, widely distributed through pharmacies and other distribution outlets so they can be purchased over the counter,” Dr. Tufton pointed out.
“The most important things are that they have to be Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or World Health Organization (WHO) approved and that persons who use them, use them correctly. The Ministry of Health and Wellness is going to engage in a public education programme to assist in providing information around usage, to ensure that persons get the best results from these kits,” he added.
President of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA), Clifton Reader, thanked the health ministry for the donation of the home testing kits.
He noted that the kits are going to be game changers in screening for COVID-19 not only in the sector, but commercially.
“So again, if you are to go to work and displaying symptoms or you just don’t feel good, test yourself, and once you test yourself, you will be able to call in and say I just got tested, I am going to get a PCR test to confirm so that we don’t have a spread of the virus,” Mr. Reader outlined.