Sun | Mar 7, 2021

Possible closure of Manchester schools being discussed amid COVID spread in the parish

Published:Monday | January 25, 2021 | 4:15 PM
Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton - file photo

A two week curfew imposed on Manchester that takes effect today, will not affect churches, but government officials are to meet to determine whether schools should be allowed to continue face-to-face classes given the spread of the virus in the parish.  

There have been 125 new cases in Manchester between January 10 and 24, with these cases spreading across over 30 communities in the parish.  

“There is non-compliance to infection prevention and control measures, as many persons are not wearing masks,” health minister Dr Christopher Tufton stated during a press briefing this morning.  

Manchester currently accounts for some 11.3 per cent of all confirmed COVID-19 cases in the last two weeks. As of yesterday, Jamaica had 15,02  confirmed cases, of which 2,609 are active.  The positivity rate for the parish has been the highest in the last two weeks at nearly 28 per cent, almost three times the national positivity rate which stands at some 10.8 per cent.   

The curfew hours for the parish will now be 7 p.m. to 5 a.m. daily.  

“It is very, very important at this time, that we just stop the movement, stop the spread and just allow for this two weeks, this incubation period to pass, so that we can have persons being protected from exposure,” chief medical officer Dr Jacquiline Bisasor-McKenzie implored.  

But while Bisasor-McKenzie feels that movements should be curtailed at this time, Tufton said a discussion will need to be held with officials from the Ministry of Education to determine if schools should be closed.

An assessment is currently being done to inform that decision.  

“If in the assessment of the public health and the education fraternity in the parish, led of course by the Ministry, there is a concern that would necessitate that decision, then that decision will be announced,” Tufton said.  

“The need was not determined that that is the direction that we should go and therefore we continue to have face to face in those cases where they have been established,” he said.  

He said consideration should be given to several variables, including the fact that students have been out of school for the most part of last year and the negative consequences of that.  

During the period of the curfew, gatherings in a public place should not exceed 10 persons, and markets and vending in public arcades and public transportation centres, are only allowed between the hours of 6 a.m and 6 p.m. 

“Based on the enhanced procedures, the churches are not impacted by the increased restrictions in the parish, so the rules that apply to churches remain in place,” said permanent secretary in the health ministry, Dunstan Bryan.  

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