Wed | Oct 4, 2023

Sutherland COVID-19 fears trigger CSO clean-up

Published:Friday | April 17, 2020 | 12:21 AMJudana Murphy/Gleaner Writer
A sanitisation crew cleans the exterior of the Jamaica Post-Central Sorting Office building where the Sutherland call centre is sited.
A sanitisation crew cleans the exterior of the Jamaica Post-Central Sorting Office building where the Sutherland call centre is sited.

Operations were delayed yesterday as the Central Sorting Office (CSO), the headquarters of Jamaica’s postal service, underwent emergency sanitisation amid the threat of coronavirus contagion from the commingling of staff at a call centre sited there.

The South Camp Road building houses Sutherland, a business process outsourcing firm that was closed Wednesday night following reports that one of its employees was a contact of a confirmed COVID-19 patient.

That confirmed patient is an employee of the Alorica call centre in Portmore, St Catherine, which has recorded more than 50 cases in the past week.

Alorica has been the epicentre of a surge in cases in Jamaica, where there have been at least 144 infections. Five people have died.

Manager of Global Strategic Initiative, Olivia Leigh Campbell, said, at the time of Sutherland’s closure, there were approximately 380 employees working from the location.

The offices remain closed as the firm awaits the results from the health ministry.

Sanitisation efforts left scores of employees and customers outside the building and resulted in a two-hour delay in commencing operations.

Patricia Pringle, a resident of Rae Town, was among the waiting pensioners.

“Mi deh here before 8 o’clock,” she bemoaned.

“I’m here to collect my pension book and mails. I only come here once a month or sometimes twice,” the 70-year-old said.

One man shouted: “It fi open from 8 o’ clock and now a four minutes to nine and dem nuh open.”

Business Development Manager Michael McPherson informed the customers, who were primarily pensioners, that their names would be recorded in order and that they would be given access to the building eventually.

“We want to ensure that the place is properly sanitised before persons enter,” McPherson said, before reminding them to observe social distancing.

The Post and Telecommunications Department manages the island’s network of almost 600 post offices and postal agencies. In addition to general mail services, many post offices offer bill-payment services.

Michael Gentles, Jamaica’s postmaster general, did not respond to requests for comment up to press time.

A CSO employee told The Gleaner that staff had concerns because “Sutherland people use our canteen”.

The employee requested anonymity because he was not authorised to speak on the company’s behalf,

He said, however, that he was satisfied with the sanitation measures that have been implemented at the CSO since local spread of the new coronavirus began.

Another employee echoed a similar sentiment, noting that the CSO has been doing all it can.

“Everywhere you go, there is hand sanitiser, and, on a daily basis, they send out boxes and gloves to the different departments. The post office is an essential service and they are doing all they can to keep the doors open,” the employee said.