Thu | Nov 26, 2020

MoBay call centre shut down over COVID breaches

Published:Thursday | October 8, 2020 | 12:16 AMAdrian Frater/News Editor
Wallace
Wallace

WESTERN BUREAU:

The St James Health Department on Wednesday ordered the Teleperformance Call Centre in Montego Bay Freeport closed after the outsourcing entity was accused of operating in contravention of coronavirus laws, with 18 cases of COVID-19 reportedly linked to the organisation.

The alleged breaches were confirmed by Lennox Wallace, head of the health department, who said the order would remain in place until the authorities were satisfied that the call centre was fully compliant.

“We cannot allow the situation that happened at another call centre earlier this year to happen here in Montego Bay, so as I stated before, the order will remain in place until we are satisfied that this call centre can operate safely,” said Wallace, referring to the Alorica call centre in Portmore, St Catherine, which was the super-spreader of the virus tallying more than 200 infections.

Jamaica recorded 126 coronavirus deaths and 7,191 infections as at Tuesday.

Wallace’s declaration, however, appeared to conflict with a statement issued by Teleperformance at 12:48 p.m. on Wednesday, saying it had got the all-clear from the health department and was operating as normal, albeit certain instructions were given in relation to an employee who tested positive for COVID-19.

The statement made reference to correspondence by Dr Marcia Johnson Campbell, of the St James Public Health Services, and was addressed to Jake Becker, a member of the management team at the Teleperformance Call Centre.

It read:

Thanks very much for providing the additional information.

Inspection conducted by the Public Health Team was deemed to be satisfactory.

Permission is hereby being given for operations to resume in all zones, with the understanding that:

1) the persons on the contact-tracing list maintain quarantine and do not come to work.

2) Strict entry screening is continued as discussed.

3) Any employee who is symptomatic is referred to the St James Public Health Service for assessment.

4) All COVID-19 prevention measures continue to be observed.

Thanks for the full and prompt cooperation that has been received.

We continue to work together to maintain a healthy environment.

FORCED TO ACT

When quizzed about Johnson Campbell’s statement, Wallace said it was issued on Tuesday and had no bearing on Wednesday’s operations, which were conducted in strict compliance with the Disaster Risk Management Act and superseded previous correspondence.

“We can confirm that there have been some 18 cases of COVID-19 that we have linked to this call centre. So it was out of an abundance of caution. We were forced to act, and we did,” Wallace said.

Shortly before midday Wednesday, The Gleaner learnt that scores of employees at the Teleperformance Call Centre were instructed by health department officers to leave the building.

“We have been hearing that persons have tested positive for COVID-19, and we are aware that other persons with suspected cases were sent off for quarantine and testing,” an employee, who requested anonymity, told The Gleaner. “We are hoping that all this is sorted out quickly so we can go back to work because now is not the time to be out of a job.”

Attempts to get from the health department details on the alleged protocol breaches and how many staff members are affected were unsuccessful.