Sat | Jan 16, 2021

Health ramps up COVID-19 army

Published:Wednesday | May 20, 2020 | 12:32 AM

THE REGIONAL health authorities are now recruiting an additional 1,300 community health aides to help curtail the spread of COVID-19 at a time when Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton says the process of preparing the population to live with the highly contagious disease must now begin.

At present, the ministry has 2,300 personnel who have the task of carrying out contact tracing and related activities.

In a statement to the House of Representatives yesterday, the health minister pointed out that in the new dispensation, active field surveillance, such as contact tracing, community education and health information, and the monitoring of persons in quarantine and isolation would be important components of the public health response.

“The addition of these officers, therefore, will enable the Government to continue our efforts in early detection and strengthen our capacity to contain and manage any infection once they are identified,” he added.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness announced on Monday that the work-from-home order will be lifted effective June 1, at which time thousands of public- and private-sector workers are expected to return to their respective workplaces under what is being described as a “new normal”.

VERY FRAGILE

Tufton said that the current state of the pandemic was “very fragile”, noting that adherence to the Infection Prevention Control measures were critical to the mission of management and control of the disease.

He said that living with COVID would be underpinned by strategic objectives, such as protecting the population from harmful health outcomes, particularly vulnerable communities and ensuring productive engagement of individuals within the society.

According to Tufton, the strategic goals will also involve “creating an environment where citizens can participate in meaningful social activities that enrich their lives and the lives of all with whom they interact”.

The health minister told his parliamentary colleagues that the Government engaged the various private-sector bodies to ensure that the most appropriate protocols for a return to work could be put in place.

He said that the private-sector bodies and unions came to the table in a spirit of partnership to build robust protocols that protect the worker, the clients, and ensure overall improvement in productivity.

In his remarks, Opposition Spokesman on Health Dr Morais Guy said that with plans to end the work-from-home arrangement, the Government must be prepared to carry out increased testing to protect the labour force.

He also urged the minister to begin the antibody testing that had been promised over the last three weeks.

“It’s high time that we roll out this particular type of testing to ensure that we protect those persons who we expect to go out there and reopen the economy,” he said.

edmond.campbell@gleanerjm.com