Sat | Oct 31, 2020

6 MORE CASES - Father of Patient 0 among at least two local transmissions as COVID starts to spread

Published:Saturday | March 14, 2020 | 12:06 AMLivern Barrett/Senior Staff Reporter
Dr Nigel Clarke, minister of finance and the public service, addressing journalists regarding the impact of COVID-19 on the manufacturing and distribution trade at Jamaica House on Thursday.

Jamaica’s Ministry of Health and Wellness last night confirmed six new cases of the novel coronavirus, including its first evidence of local transmission.

The cases, which bring to eight the number of confirmed cases here, include two men, aged 63 and 67, who came into the island on March 7 from Trinidad, having travelled from Malaysia by way of Dubai and London. They presented at hospital on March 11, the ministry said.

Another man aged 36 who travelled from Manchester, England. was taken to hospital from his hotel via ambulance on March 11. A 31-year-old Jamaican overseas ship worker, who came in from the Canary Islands via Portugal and Miami, arrived in the island on February 25 and presented to hospital with symptoms on March 10.

The 58-year-old father of the first confirmed COVID-11 person, the so-called Patient 0, was discovered at home on March 11. And another woman, 34, a close contact with Patient 0, is also positive.

The local retail and distribution trade has given the assurance that it has up to three months’ supply of basic foods and other essentials in storage, the Jamaican Government has announced.

The declaration comes amid rising concern about the impact of the novel coronavirus, which has triggered a shutdown of Jamaica’s public-school system and other educational institutions and “panic-buying” of food and sanitising agents.

“There is no need to panic. Inventories remain strong,” said Finance Minister Dr Nigel Clarke, echoing the message the Holness administration sought to convey during separate Jamaica House press conferences yesterday.

Andrew Holness, the prime minister, announced that starting today, all early childhood institutions, primary and high schools, the HEART Trust/National Service Agency, and the HOPE training programme will be closed for 14 days “in the first instance”. The closures will be reviewed after 10 days and a decision taken on whether they will be extended.

The shutdown has triggered a review of the schedule for the Primary Exit Profile (PEP) exams. Dr Grace McLean, permanent secretary in the education ministry, told journalists that the ministry has the capacity to postpone the assessment and to “make a determination later, depending on the number of days the students are going to be out”.

“We are committed, however, to ensuring that whatever happens, that the students will get an opportunity to sit [the exam], and in cases where they are not able to sit all three sets of papers … we have their grade five assessments, and that can be utilised in this specific case.”

Foreign Minister Kamina Johnson Smith announced, too, that the Jamaican consulate general in New York City would be closed for five days, starting Monday. The office serves the largest diaspora community in the United States.

The consular section of the Jamaican missions in Washington, DC, and London in the United Kingdom, will also be closed next week, Johnson Smith said.

“The Government will monitor the situation and determine whether it should be extended,” she disclosed.

“This is a precautionary measure to protect persons from spreading the coronavirus by limiting [Jamaican] nationals having to gather for access to services and to transit to our relevant missions.”

Johnson Smith said that overseas employees have been alerted to the Government’s restriction on travel and urged Jamaicans in the diaspora to postpone non-essential travel to the homeland.

“All staff have been advised that no travel will be approved at this time for non-essential purposes until further notice,” she said.

Junior Minister for Industry and Commerce Floyd Green said the Government was aware that there has been some “panic-buying” of sanitising agents.

However, Green gave the assurance that there are sufficient materials in the island to make sanitisers and said the two local producers have indicated that they would be increasing production. “They have committed to go from an eight-hour workday to a 12-hour workday so that they can have enough out there,” he told journalists.

He noted also that sufficient alternatives such as bleach and anti-bacterial soaps were readily available and said that the Consumer Affairs Commission would be directed to “put out some of these alternatives to the marketplace”.