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  • Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton, says the Government’s decision to issue an advisory against travelling to and from the People’s Republic of China, consequent on the Coronavirus outbreak in that country, is “the right thing to do at this time”.
  • He noted that the nature and impact of the virus and the extent to which is has been spreading across China and to other countries, which he said, totalled 15 up to Monday, “does suggest that there is a risk [to Jamaica] and helped us to conclude on the the travel advisory… until further notice”.
  • He noted that a number of Chinese nationals in Jamaica have gone back to their homeland to celebrate the Lunar New Year holiday period.

Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton, says the Government’s decision to issue an advisory against travelling to and from the People’s Republic of China, consequent on the Coronavirus outbreak in that country, is “the right thing to do at this time”.

He noted that the nature and impact of the virus and the extent to which is has been spreading across China and to other countries, which he said, totalled 15 up to Monday, “does suggest that there is a risk [to Jamaica] and helped us to conclude on the the travel advisory… until further notice”.

He noted that a number of Chinese nationals in Jamaica have gone back to their homeland to celebrate the Lunar New Year holiday period.

“We think coming from and going into China should be avoided. So persons in China who are planning to travel to the island will be asked to remain [there]… and where persons are planning trips to China, whether Jamaicans or Chinese, we are asking them to postpone those travel arrangements that they would have made or are planning to make,” he said.

Dr. Tufton was speaking during a media briefing at the Ministry’s offices in New Kingston on Tuesday (January 28).

He maintained that the Administration’s first priority “is the protection of our citizens” and “we will do whatever is necessary [and] extend whatever resources are necessary or take whatever decision is necessary to ensure that the protection of our citizens is maintained”.

Dr. Tufton said that the travel advisory does not apply to other countries, such as the United States and Canada, where the virus has reportedly surfaced on a smaller scale.

He said that based on information, those countries “have identified a few cases and they have taken measures to isolate and deal with them,” noting that the “assessment of the risk associated with those jurisdictions are nowhere as great as in China”.

Dr. Tufton advised that the Government will be having discussions with representatives of those countries regarding any possible travel coordination that may be required.

He is urging locals to refrain from actions that could be interpreted as unfriendly or discriminatory towards Chinese nationals in Jamaica, in light of the travel advisory.

“I don’t want this to be interpreted in any way, shape or form as a hostile position. The risk [posed by the Coronavirus] is recognised on both sides, and what we are trying to do is cauterise and manage that risk,” he pointed out.

Dr. Tufton said the decision to issue the advisory, which evolved from a Cabinet consideration, was discussed with China’s Ambassador to Jamaica, His Excellency Tian Qi, during a meeting at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade on Tuesday (January 28), which also involved Portfolio Minister, Senator the Hon. Kamina Johnson Smith.

The Health Minister noted that the discussion was “mutually respectful, open and transparent” and “explored all the possibilities” in treating with the virus.

“It recognised the friendship that Jamaica shares with China in a number of areas [such as] business, culture, and education [where] we have students there studying and we have Chinese here teaching our locals. So the decisions taken around the travel advisory were based on the recognition of that friendship,” he stressed.

Additionally, Dr. Tufton said Ambassador Qi asked that his appreciation for the discussions and positions taken in the interest of all concerned be conveyed to the relevant parties.

The Minister further indicated that based on discussions with the Foreign Affairs Ministry, plans are in place to ensure that the concerns of Jamaicans in China are addressed.
Meanwhile, Dr. Tufton said the Government continues to be vigilant.

He said that surveillance protocols at all ports of entry will be maintained and the requisite resources and personnel bolstered where required.

He said that the Ministry has been monitoring the information being put out by other countries, including China, and is taking advice from the multilateral partners, in particular, the Pan-American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO).

Reports of a suspected case of the virus in the island surfaced on Tuesday; however, those fears were allayed after tests and assessments concluded that the individual’s symptoms were not consistent with those of the Coronavirus, which is characterised by, among other things, a fever exceeding 30 degrees Celsius.

In addition, the individual’s respiratory ailment fell outside the one to 14-day incubation timeline for the virus.

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