Mask mandate to return as COVID numbers climb
PRIME MINISTER Andrew Holness has indicated that the Government will be reintroducing a mask mandate as the island sees an uptick in COVID-19 cases, a month after this and other restrictions were fully lifted.
“It is going to be a requirement shortly for all our citizens to return to wearing their masks. As you know, we are in the fifth wave [of the pandemic], and it will be a continuing feature of life going forward that we will, for some time, be experiencing recurrent bouts of increased infections from this disease, which is called the endemic phase,” Holness said as he handed over two welfare houses in St James yesterday.
“Wear your masks, particularly if you are indoors, but wear your masks generally. Maintain social distance, and social distance is what you would consider to be special awareness, being aware of the people around you and the spaces that you are in,” Holness appealed. “In Jamaica, we do not pay much attention to personal space, so everybody rubs up on everybody, but personal space is where you maintain a decent distance from each other.”
On Thursday, the Ministry of Education and Youth mandated the immediate wearing of masks in schools in response to a surging coronavirus infection rate.
The Government had lifted the mask mandate on April 15 as infection numbers declined, a move which triggered criticism. Pre-testing requirements for overseas travellers to enter Jamaica had also been scrapped at that time.
As at Thursday, Jamaica saw 366 new COVID-19 cases with a positivity rate of 37.9 per cent. Some 2,719 cases were said to be active in the island, although officials have expressed concerns that with self-testing now being done at home by many Jamaicans, the true picture is not being captured.
On Friday, the health ministry’s vaccine tracker showed that 1,431,634 COVID-19 jabs have been administered locally, with 697,196 of those being first doses and 594,503 being second shots. There have been 100,545 single-dose vaccines administered, plus 35,301 booster shots and 4,089 doses for immuno-compromised persons.
Holness implored those who have not yet being vaccinated against COVID-19 to do so.
“After two years, everyone should know how to behave in order to protect themselves from the virus, and the first order of business is to get vaccinated. Some people don’t want to do it, and some people have done it, but what we know is that the vaccination programme has saved lives and has reduced hospitalisation,” the prime minister said.
“I am urging all Jamaicans to act responsibly, and we know what to do.”