Sat | Jan 23, 2021

Health Ministry Clarifies Comments On Frontline Staff And Coronavirus - ... not included in Jamaica’s 19 confirmed cases, says Tufton

Published:Monday | March 23, 2020 | 12:12 AMLivern Barrett - Senior Staff Reporter
Dr. Christopher Tufton, Minister of Health and Wellness

Health and Wellness Ministry has clarified comments by the health minister in an interview with The Sunday Gleaner about frontline workers and the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

According to the ministry, no health worker has tested positive.

In a statement issued a short while ago, the ministry also said no frontline worker has been excluded from the 19 people tested positive for COVID-19.

“Some members of the frontline staff have been in quarantine, due to exposure to COVID-19 cases in Jamaica, but all have tested negative and are serving the quarantine period of 14 days,” said a spokesperson for the ministry in the statement.

Meanwhile, the health minister Dr Christopher Tufton, who has been leading Jamaica’s pushback against the spread of the respiratory ailment, said so far, there has been no reason for him to get tested.

Tufton admitted that he had visited Bull Bay, the St Andrew community now under quarantine because of its link to at least two confirmed COVID-19 cases, but said he has not experienced any of the symptoms.

“I didn’t go into the actual zone. I was really at the checkpoint where the police and soldiers were. I would say that I have not put myself into the high-risk category to date,” he explained.

“As the minister, I would come in contact with a number of persons who would sometimes be at risk, but we try to minimise that as best as possible.”


Tufton was quick to point out, however, that he would not hesitate to get tested “if I put myself at risk” or detected any preliminary symptoms.

The novel coronavirus outbreak in the country has resulted in the death of a 79-year-old Jamaican man who lived in New York City, in the United States, and had visited relatives in Corn Piece Settlement, Clarendon, while on the island last week. The area has since been quarantined.

The health minister disclosed, too, that medical professionals tasked with treating patients infected with the infectious respiratory disease and those manning quarantine centres are being “separated from their normal family members for a period”.

Further, he indicated that depending on the extent of their roles, health workers who provide treatment for COVID-19 patients are kept away from their normal duties. He said this was part of the efforts to ensure that they are “not vulnerable themselves or subject to contaminate anyone”.

“We are always mindful of anyone in the line of duty who are sufficiently exposed to recommend quarantining of these individuals and it has been done,” Tufton said.

“Our frontline personnel are always at risk as they carry out their duties. I think they understand because this is not the first time the health system is dealing with infectious diseases, so there is a protocol to guide this.”

NOTE: An earlier version of this story had quoted the Health Minister as saying frontline workers including doctors and nurses had tested positive for the coronavirus. The minister has since clarified that position saying no frontline worker has tested positive.