Thu | Dec 2, 2021

COVID cluster at BPO

Published:Friday | August 6, 2021 | 12:08 AMAsha Wilks/Gleaner Intern
A security guard is seen outside The Towers, where Advantage Communications Inc is located. The business process outsourcing company is grappling with a rash of COVID-19 cases.
A security guard is seen outside The Towers, where Advantage Communications Inc is located. The business process outsourcing company is grappling with a rash of COVID-19 cases.

Business process outsourcing company (BPO) Advantage Communications Inc in New Kingston is grappling with an outbreak of COVID-19.

The BPO currently has 16 positive cases, Regional Site Director Celina Hendricks said on Thursday. Six of the employees have reportedly shown no symptoms this week.

The virus was transmitted from a trainee in a group of 18, The Gleaner has learnt.

Sixty-five employees are awaiting the results of COVID-19 tests, the site director said.

Hendricks said that the call centre has had infections “on and off” since COVID-19 was first detected in Jamaica in March 2020.

“We’ve been reporting to the Ministry of Health,” Hendricks told The Gleaner, adding that status updates are provided daily.

The site director said that the company conducts contact tracing and sends staff for testing. Persons deemed to be at high risk of contracting the virus are immediately pulled out of office and placed into self-isolation, she said.

Upwards of 60 per cent of Advantage Communications Inc’s 2,000 employees work from home.

A hundred staffers have been vaccinated against COVID-19 in inoculation drives over the last two weeks. That includes 20 doses of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

BPOs have been flagged as potential superspreader transmission sites of the new coronavirus because of their dense workforce environments.

Cramped office space and poor ventilation have been cited as ideal conditions for transmission.

The Alorica call centre in Portmore, St Catherine, was the epicentre of a supercluster of COVID-19 cases in April 2020, spreading to its Kingston outlet and sparking a parishwide lockdown to stymie the spread. More than 230 cases were linked to Alorica.

A two-week shutdown of BPO plants was imposed in mid-2020.

BPOs have come under heavy scrutiny from the Government but have also been commended for incorporating monitoring and sanitisation protocols.

Employees of Advantage Communications who spoke with The Gleaner said that the BPO enforces adherence to COVID-19 protocols.

Sanisation is conducted in 15-minute intervals in high-traffic areas, Hendricks said.

Plexiglass has also been installed between workers.

Jamaica’s BPO workforce tops 44,000.

asha.wilks@gleanerjm.com