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COVID-19 patients could be arrested if they go to the polls

Published:Sunday | August 30, 2020 | 1:13 AMCorey Robinson - Senior Staff Reporter

Persons who are confirmed to be COVID-19 positive may not be allowed to vote in the September 3 general election, according to a draft document to go before Cabinet tomorrow.

The revelation came yesterday in a recommendation document from the Ministry of Health & Wellness, which is proposing to warn COVID-19-positive Jamaicans that they will be in violation of the Disaster Risk Management Act and subject to arrest if they attempt to leave facilities or their homes in which they have been isolated to go to the polls.

Health minister Dr Christopher Tufton is to present the recommendations to Cabinet, which will make a decision on the matter days before the election will be held.

“Persons who are in isolation – that is, those that are confirmed cases of COVID-19 – are advised that leaving their place of isolation will put several persons at risk of exposure to COVID-19,” the document stated.

“Persons who are ill and in government facilities will not be discharged until they are considered not a threat to the public. Persons who attempt to leave the facility will be reported to the security forces as breaching the quarantine/isolation orders,” it noted, adding that people who are not ill but are in isolation facilities or at home should also remain in isolation unless otherwise advised.

“Person who are in [home] quarantine, if allowed by lifting of restriction orders, can go to the polling station to vote,” the ministry said further, although it cautioned that such persons, like other voters, should adhere to infection prevention control measures, including the wearing of masks, the sanitisation of hands, and the observation of social-distance protocols.

The drivers and passengers of all vehicles en route to polling stations must also wear masks and must maintain physical distance as much as possible in the vehicles, it said.

Up to last Friday, Jamaica had recorded 2,011 COVID-19 cases with some 1,083 persons in isolation. Another 28,970 were in quarantine, the health ministry said.


The ministry’s recommendation followed a Sunday Gleaner article last week, in which renowned constitutional lawyer Dr Lloyd Barnett demanded that the Government exhaust all measures to facilitate COVID-19-positive voters.

Yesterday, Barnett was not impressed with the Government’s proposal, which he said trampled on those Jamaicans’ constitutional right to vote.

“Essentially, what they are suggesting is that persons who have tested positive will not be facilitated and, in fact, may be arrested or exposed to arrest if they go to vote. But they have given no indication of any alternative measures by which such persons will be facilitated,” said Barnett.

“Therefore, it denies them the right to vote without getting any reasonable measures.”

Barnett said that if the recommendations are approved by the government tomorrow, general election may be too close for those persons to file suit and have the matter heard in the courts before Thursday’s polling day, but he noted that after the elections, anyone barred from participating may have reasonable grounds to take the Government to court.