Fri | Dec 4, 2020

No COVID hype, anxiety or panic - Tufton wants consistency in observing coronavirus protocols instead

Published:Saturday | October 10, 2020 | 12:08 AMMark Titus/Gleaner Writer
Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton.
Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton.

Dr Christopher Tufton, minister of health and wellness, says the community transmission phase of COVID-19 will continue to see a number of positive cases at workplaces, but expressed satisfaction at the efforts of business operators to mitigate against a spread of the virus over the past three weeks.

Tufton was speaking to the media following a tour of the Montego Bay Free Zone in St James on Thursday, including Teleperformance Jamaica, that had to suspend its morning shift operation to facilitate a detailed routine inspection by the St James Health Authority on Wednesday.

“When you have community transmission, the COVID-19 virus is going to be more prevalent, as it is now, and therefore, we do expect that we will have positive cases turning up at the workplace … whether it is BPO, supermarket or manufacturing … anywhere,” said Tufton.

“As minister, I am not disturbed or evenly overly concerned when a positive case turns up at a workplace setting, because, frankly speaking, in community transmission, you expect these cases from time to time,” said Tufton. “It is not the absence of a positive case that determines the success of the measures, it is the presence of the measures or the protocol, it is the fact that they work. They work in finding cases, they work in containing cases and they work in ensuring consistency in terms of business operations.”

“We do not want to create too much hype, anxiety or even panic around the recognition of a positive case … no matter which workplace that is,” He added. “What we want to do is ensure that there is consistency.”

According to the health authority, the shutdown was necessary to identify individuals they needed to contact.

“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,” said Lennox Wallace, parish manager of the St James Health Authority.

Not Happy

Gloria Henry, president of the Business Process Industry Association of Jamaica, said her organisation was not happy with the decision by the health authority, because zoning was done since March to avoid the entire shutdown of businesses to deal with isolated cases.

“If you have to shut down a zone for contact tracing, we can understand that, but not the entire company with four or five different zones in two or three different buildings,” Henry said. “I think it was unnecessary. What they should have done was contact Teleperformance and find out which zone the persons were connected with and shut down that zone, but not the entire company.”

“The agreement we had in the task force chaired by Minister Vaz is, where possible, we would segregate the employees in different zones so that they can be identified easily when there is an infection,” she added.

According to Jake Becker, CEO of Teleperformance, which employs over 3,000 agents, work resumed at 12:48 p.m. on Wednesday when he received the certificate from the health authority permitting resumption. “We resumed business at 12:48 when I received an email saying that they had all the tracing figured out, and we were permitted to resume. So we have been operational ever since.”