Fri | Oct 23, 2020

St Thomas lockdown a ‘necessary evil’

Published:Saturday | August 22, 2020 | 12:23 AMPaul Clarke/Gleaner Writer
Left: Karen Smith (left) and her friend, Shelly Cameron (right), stop to chat on the Morant Bay bridge after delivering food packages to relatives living in Church Corner, St Thomas, which has been quarantined since August 6 because of an upsurge in corona
Left: Karen Smith (left) and her friend, Shelly Cameron (right), stop to chat on the Morant Bay bridge after delivering food packages to relatives living in Church Corner, St Thomas, which has been quarantined since August 6 because of an upsurge in coronavirus cases in the area.

St Thomas resident Karen Smith says she walked two miles to the checkpoint at Church Corner, the COVID-19 epicentre in western St Thomas, to give her little sister food for her 67-year-old mother.

Smith said the government-imposed quarantine of Church Corner and five other St Thomas communities was a “necessary evil” to stop the spread of the deadly coronavirus. She now fears that a parishwide shutdown is imminent.

She was not alone.

Smith is among hundreds of people who have had to improvise because of the cloud of uncertainty and suspicion over the health status of the Morant Bay neighbourhood.

“Seeing that our family members cannot come out, we decided to take whatever we have to them, so we had to stay at the checkpoint and ask the soldiers to allow us the favour because my mother lives there,” Smith told The Gleaner.

Moved to tears, Smith said lamented that she could not have visited her mom but accepts that quarantining the community was the best option.

“We make sure she stays inside and that no visitors are allowed to see her, because we cannot afford for her to contract this nasty virus,” she said.

It was much the same in Albion and Seaforth, where residents flocked grocery shops to stock up on essentials until the next shopping day on Monday.

Smith was among several Jamaica Labour Party supporters who said they believed Prime Minister Andrew Holness should have held off calling the general election.

The communities of Albion, York, and Seaforth were placed under quarantine before daybreak on Thursday, sparked by a rash of 13 confirmed COVID cases detected in the past three weeks. Three other communities – Bamboo River, Church Corner, and Lower Summit – had lockdown measures imposed on August 6.

Albion was quiet on Thursday, as the security forces managed checkpoints in all directions.

However, representative for the Seaforth division, Councillor Joan Spencer, complained that the “elderly are having a hard time of it”.

Spencer said that persons are not being allowed to get much-needed medication.

“Many old folk are complaining that the soldiers are not allowing them to get medication, and on top of that, we have no ATM in the area to allow them to get cash to make purchases. That is the main problem right now,” Spencer said.

At least 25 St Thomas communities are now under the COVID-19 radar, Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Jacquiline Bisasor-McKenzie disclosed at Thursday’s press conference.

Bisasor-McKenzie said that the large numbers of cases are from tests done between August 10 and 17.

The CMO said that the increase is likely linked to events held over the Independence holiday period.

Colleen Wright, St Thomas Health Department parish manager, said that contact tracers would remain in the affected communities over the next 14 days.

In the meantime, St Thomas Western Member of Parliament James Robertson urged healthcare workers at the Seaforth Health Centre to be resolute.

“We are depending on you to help keep us safe,” Robertson told nurses during an impromptu visit on Friday.

paul.clarke@gleanerjm.com