Wed | Aug 17, 2022

Mask mandate to return as COVID numbers climb

Published:Saturday | May 21, 2022 | 12:12 AMChristopher Thomas/Gleaner Writer
Prime Minister Andrew Holness (right) is joined by (from left) Uvel Graham, councillor for the Spring Mount Division in St James, and St James East Central Member of Parliament Edmund Bartlett in cutting the ribbon with Beverly Thompson as the Government h
Prime Minister Andrew Holness (right) is joined by (from left) Uvel Graham, councillor for the Spring Mount Division in St James, and St James East Central Member of Parliament Edmund Bartlett in cutting the ribbon with Beverly Thompson as the Government handed over a new home to Thompson in Latium, St James, yesterday.
From left: Jermaine Clarke and his wife, Jasseth, smile broadly behind their masks as Prime Minister Andrew Holness and St James East Central Member of Parliament Edmund Bartlett join in celebrating the handing over of a new home to them in Lottery, St Jam
From left: Jermaine Clarke and his wife, Jasseth, smile broadly behind their masks as Prime Minister Andrew Holness and St James East Central Member of Parliament Edmund Bartlett join in celebrating the handing over of a new home to them in Lottery, St James, yesterday. The house was provided through the Government’s New Social Housing Programme.
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WESTERN BUREAU:

PRIME MINISTER Andrew Holness has indicated that the Government will be reintroducing a mask mandate as the island sees an uptick in COVID-19 cases, a month after this and other restrictions were fully lifted.

“It is going to be a requirement shortly for all our citizens to return to wearing their masks. As you know, we are in the fifth wave [of the pandemic], and it will be a continuing feature of life going forward that we will, for some time, be experiencing recurrent bouts of increased infections from this disease, which is called the endemic phase,” Holness said as he handed over two welfare houses in St James yesterday.

“Wear your masks, particularly if you are indoors, but wear your masks generally. Maintain social distance, and social distance is what you would consider to be special awareness, being aware of the people around you and the spaces that you are in,” Holness appealed. “In Jamaica, we do not pay much attention to personal space, so everybody rubs up on everybody, but personal space is where you maintain a decent distance from each other.”

On Thursday, the Ministry of Education and Youth mandated the immediate wearing of masks in schools in response to a surging coronavirus infection rate.

The Government had lifted the mask mandate on April 15 as infection numbers declined, a move which triggered criticism. Pre-testing requirements for overseas travellers to enter Jamaica had also been scrapped at that time.

As at Thursday, Jamaica saw 366 new COVID-19 cases with a positivity rate of 37.9 per cent. Some 2,719 cases were said to be active in the island, although officials have expressed concerns that with self-testing now being done at home by many Jamaicans, the true picture is not being captured.

On Friday, the health ministry’s vaccine tracker showed that 1,431,634 COVID-19 jabs have been administered locally, with 697,196 of those being first doses and 594,503 being second shots. There have been 100,545 single-dose vaccines administered, plus 35,301 booster shots and 4,089 doses for immuno-compromised persons.

Holness implored those who have not yet being vaccinated against COVID-19 to do so.

“After two years, everyone should know how to behave in order to protect themselves from the virus, and the first order of business is to get vaccinated. Some people don’t want to do it, and some people have done it, but what we know is that the vaccination programme has saved lives and has reduced hospitalisation,” the prime minister said.

“I am urging all Jamaicans to act responsibly, and we know what to do.”

christopher.thomas@gleanerjm.com