COVID SPOILER - Virus caution to crash colourful nomination party
With a worrying rise in the number of Jamaicans contracting COVID-19 in the last week, prospective election candidates who plan to crank up their political machinery in a show of strength today – nomination day – are being warned that campaign activities should be restrained.
That alarm comes amid Monday’s revelation of 16 new coronavirus cases, with infections surging to 1,129. Half of the newest cases are linked to Kingston and St Andrew (eight), with six in Clarendon, as concerns rise about the virus wending its way through densely populated cities and towns amid a looming general election. St Thomas and Manchester each recorded one new confirmed case.
There are now 285 active COVID-19 cases in Jamaica, with one critically ill patient. Nine others are moderately ill.
The worsening crisis has remained top of Prime Minister Andrew Holness’ agenda.
“This means that the political parties must exercise great care and caution and our supporters must understand that we cannot conduct a campaign in the routine normal way, that this campaign is a COVID-19 campaign and that the protocols must and will be strictly observed,” Holness declared on Monday at a digital press conference at Jamaica House.
The stark warning comes from the prime minister even as communities in St Thomas and Clarendon, hit hard by the highly contagious virus, have been placed under tighter restrictions, including another 14-day quarantine. This new measure expires on September 2, a day before Jamaicans go to the polls to elect a new government.
It was revealed that the districts of Bamboo River, Church Corner and Lower Summit have registered 45 of 89 COVID-19 cases in St Thomas since the August 6 quarantine. Curfew hours for all of St Thomas have been adjusted to 7 p.m. to 5 a.m. from the previous 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. which apply to the rest of the country.
At the same time, 22 residents of Sandy Bay in Clarendon have tested positive for the virus.
Scrutiny on Kingston
The Ministry of Health & Wellness has also raised concerns about 18 communities in the Corporate Area where COVID-19 cases have emerged without health authorities being able to trace persons infected to a confirmed local or imported case.
In light of the threat posed by COVID-19, the prime minister said that he has spoken to Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips, as well as incumbents for St Thomas Eastern, Dr Fenton Ferguson, and Pearnel Charles Jr, of Clarendon South East, regarding nomination day activities.
“We have agreed that as leaders of the country, we will be scrupulous in following the rules, that we will be consistent and firm in ensuring that our supporters follow the rules,” he said, adding that the nomination day activities should be consistent with the agreement and measures recommended by the Ministry of Health. Both parties have signed that agreement.
The prime minister lamented the cavalier approach by many in relation to the wearing of masks. Expressing concern that some Jamaicans believe that the wearing of masks was no longer important, Holness urged the country to heed the advice of the health authorities and wear a mask. He also reminded members of the public of the importance of washing hands regularly and to observe social-distancing protocols.
An RJRGLEANER-Don Anderson poll conducted between July 24 and August 3 indicated that 51 per cent of Jamaicans believe that they are not at risk of contracting COVID-19. The poll surveyed 1,071 people and had a margin of error of plus or minus three per cent.
Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton has indicated that COVID-19 carriers desirous of voting would represent a risk to others at polling stations on September 3.
“The public-health position is very clear. Persons who are positive, and we have 200 plus such cases currently, should not be allowed to pose a risk to others on election day or any other time,” Tufton said.
Asked if the Government would be on sound legal footing in denying a COVID-19 positive person the right to vote, Tufton said he was only able to give a public-health perspective. He suggested that discussions would be held with the Electoral Commission of Jamaica to examine the legal implications.
However, he said that persons in quarantine should be allowed the right to vote given that they have not been confirmed COVID-19 positive. At present, 28,000 Jamaicans are in quarantine.
Jamaica’s national tally for COVID-19 has surpassed the 1,100 mark, with a little more than 68 per cent recovery rate.
Communities with emerging COVID-19 cases
• Duhaney Park
• Patrick Gardens
• Pembroke Hall
• New Haven
• Half-Way Tree
• Arlene Gardens
• Molynes Gardens
• State Gardens
• Ziadie Gardens
• Constant Spring
• Delacree Park
• Olympic Gardens
• Waltham Gardens