New COVID hurdles to travel, burials
As coronavirus numbers skyrocket, all persons entering the island, including Jamaicans, will now be required to present a negative COVID-19 test result conducted no less than 72 hours before the date of travel.
The new measures, which become effective on Thursday, March 4, will also see business travellers being required to pay for their PCR test on arrival on the island. Currently, visitors have 10 days in which to present a negative COVID-19 result in order to enter the island.
PCR, or polymerase chain reaction, is the gold standard of coronavirus testing because of its accuracy but has a longer turnaround for results than less-precise antigen varieties.
The ban on direct flights from the United Kingdom has now been extended to March 22.
These were among a raft of actions announced by Prime Minister Andrew Holness at a virtual press briefing on Sunday evening aimed at flattening the curve of the virus, which has infected more than 23,200 people here and killed 422.
Funerals have also been hard hit by the decision, with burials cancelled for two weeks, from March 7–22. Churches have been ordered to conduct virtual services, effective immediately, with no more than 10 persons in the sanctuary.
From March 1-8, funerals that were already planned will be allowed. However, administratively, the municipal corporations will be instructed to not issue any burial orders. Strict adherence to the 15-person rule will be enforced, with no more than 10 mourners. Funeral officials round out the 15-person complement.
Holness said that the pandemic had reached a critical juncture, with 1,881 people confirmed to have contracted COVID-19 in Jamaica over the last seven days.
The most worrying statistic, he said, was the increasing hospitalisation rate across the island, with Cornwall Regional bursting at the seams at an alarming 154 per cent bed space occupancy, displacing non-COVID patients in need of medical help at the facility.
Admissions across the regional health authorities have moved from 20 to 25 persons per day to 45 to 50 on average. The situation has worsened to the point that Andrews Memorial, a private hospital, will now take the overflow of some non-COVID-19 cases at its Hope Road facility.
Hoping to staunch the haemorrhage in the sector, Minister of Health and Wellness Dr Christopher Tufton announced that effective today, 18 temporary doctors and 42 nurses will commence work at Cornwall Regional as part of the Government’s surge plan.
In the Southern Regional Health Authority (SERHA), 43 temporary doctors will also start working this morning.
The new Disaster Risk Management Act orders will remain in effect until March 22, and the nationwide curfew will continue to run from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. daily.
* The cap on guests at weddings will be reduced from 50 to 25.
* Starting Thursday, March 4, there will be a work-from-home arrangements in the public sector. The private sector is being encouraged to follow suit.
* Zoos, parks, gyms, attractions, and bars must close by 6 p.m.
* The stay-at-home order has been reduced from 65 to 60.