$7 billion for COVID - First case confirmed in Jamaica
With Jamaica confirming its first COVID-19 case yesterday, Finance and the Public Service Minister Dr Nigel Clarke has earmarked $7 billion in contingency funding to tackle the SARS-CoV-2 viral threat.
In his contribution to the 2020-2021 Budget Debate in Parliament yesterday, Clarke indicated that if the virus became more pervasive, the Government had resources to respond.
“We are prepared. We are in a much stronger position today to withstand global shocks than we have ever been before,” Clarke declared.
He said that the Government was providing an advance of $2 billion from the 2020-2021 Budget to facilitate immediate preventative and preparatory spending.
This amount would be reflected in the First Supplementary Estimates of Expenditure.
Clarke said that the funds to be expended would be designed to prevent, control, treat, and contain the virus.
He said the money would be spent on procuring adequate medical and other supplies, as well as to improve the capacity of public-health facilities to handle existing caseload in the context of COVID-19; to prepare facilities for quarantine; to provide basic services for quarantined persons, and to fund the training of medical staff.
At the same time, the Government is discouraging non-essential cruise and air travel.
Addressing an emergency press conference yesterday afternoon, Minister of Health and Wellness Dr Christopher Tufton said the patient had recently travelled from the United Kingdom, which has cases of COVID-19 and arrived in the island on March 4.
CAME FOR FUNERAL
The female patient has been in isolation at the University Hospital of the West Indies since March 9 after showing respiratory symptoms.
She reportedly came to the island to attend a funeral on in a community bordering St Thomas and St Andrew.
Chief Medical Officer Jacquiline Bisasor-McKenzie said the novel coronavirus could be contracted when infected people present with symptoms.
“Once the patient stops having symptoms, then what we tend to do is two repeated tests over a period of two to four days to see if there is virus still present, and based on that, we would say if it is safe to discharge the patient,” said Bisasor-McKenzie.
Tufton explained that steps are being taken to prevent the risk of community spread.
“These measures include the dispatch of a health team to the home of the patient for assessment and initiation of public-health measures and the identification and contact tracing for all possible exposed persons,” Tufton said.
Bisasor-McKenzie explained that persons who came in contact with the patient will be quarantined in national facilities or be urged to self-quarantine.
Further, no other details about the patient were divulged because authorities believe that that disclosure might jeopardise the work of public health officials who are conducting contact investigations and will need persons to comply.
Quizzed on why it took five days for the patient to be presented to the health authorities, Tufton said she would have been screened but was not travelling from any of the listed countries that would require passengers to be quarantined.
Travel restrictions have been imposed on three more countries – Spain, France and Germany. Previously, travel restrictions were placed on China, Italy, South Korea, Singapore, and Iran.
As a result of the virus, Jamaica will not be participating in the Penn Relays scheduled for April 23-25 in Philadelphia, USA.
Meanwhile, a meeting has been scheduled with the education, sport and health ministries, as well as the major sponsor of the ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys and Girls’ Championships, to decide on the plans for the sporting event that usually has upwards of 3,000 participating athletes and a capacity stadium of nearly 30,000.
The quarantine facility for the western end of the island has not yet been activated. All persons who require quarantine will be transferred to the national facilities in Kingston and St Andrew.
“We have designated four quarantine facilities and others will be identified. We are finalising the retrofitting of isolation facilities in each of the island’s public hospitals,” Tufton said.
Twenty-seven-year-old Kemar Bailey, a patient in quarantine who arrived in Jamaica on Saturday, escaped from the centre on Monday. He was subsequently captured and returned to the facility.
The chief medical officer said private security was in place at the quarantine facility.
“We do collaborate with the Ministry of National Security in terms of the transfer or the transport of these persons, and they are responsive to our needs. We anticipate that there is going to be further collaboration, especially in light of this incident,” she said.
The ministry is guided by the Quarantine Act, which states that “any person who refuses or wilfully omits to do any act which he is required to do by this act, or refuses or wilfully omits to carry out any lawful order, instruction or condition made, given or imposed by any officer or other person acting under the authority of this act”, shall be guilty of an offence.
“Proceedings will be levied against the person. He will be charged because we have to discourage this kind of activity,” Tufton said yesterday.
The public is encouraged to contact 888-ONE-LOVE (663-5683) for additional information.
Members of the COVID-19 Response Advisory team:
1. Dr Marina Ramkisoon, deputy associate dean, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of the West Indies.
2. Commander Antoinette Weymss Gorman, Jamaica Defence Force.
3. Lieutenant Colonel Sydney Powell, Jamaica Defence Force.
4. Assistant Commissioner of Police Calvin Allen, Jamaica Constabulary Force.
5. Howard Mitchell, former president of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica.
6. Christopher Zacca, CEO, Sagicor.
7. Owen Ellington, former commissioner of police.
8. Reverend Devon Dick, Jamaica Baptist Union.