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St Thomas residents want borders closed to keep out virus

Published:Thursday | April 16, 2020 | 12:00 AMShanna Monteith/Gleaner Writer
Kristeena Monteith
Oshane Reeves

As St Thomas remained one of three parishes yet to record a case of the deadly coronavirus in the island up to press time, residents are pleading for non-residents to keep out as Jamaica recorded a dramatic surge in cases over the last two days, taking the total number of confirmed to 125.

With the bulk of the new cases linked to the Alorica business process outsourcing facility in Portmore, the Government has ordered a seven-day lockdown of St Catherine, which has sent jitters throughout other sections of the population.

Dr Peter Nelson, a scholar and entrepreneur from Hampton Court who is also passionate about leading the development of St Thomas, said that non-residents should be prohibited from entering unaffected parishes, which also include Hanover and Trelawny. In addition, he is calling for a no-exit policy for these parishes.

“This will isolate the spread. Furthermore, all citizens in affected parishes should be tested and those who are found to be positive moved to quarantine facilities controlled by the military,” he added. “The Government will have to transport food aid on a door-to-door basis to those under lockdown if we are to maintain true social isolation in these areas and control the spread within same.”

Nelson said mental health professionals should also be mobilised to help people cope with the anxiety and stress brought on by the pandemic.

Oshane Reeves, a native of Bath in St Thomas who is now studying in Canada, also believesthat his home parish should be strictly monitored to prevent an outbreak of the virus, which has infected more than two million people across the globe.

“It makes no sense you let all the parishes get consumed by COVID-19. That will be additional stress on the health system, so something should be done to ensure St Thomas remains COVID-free,” Reeves said, adding that he did not believe that the Princess Margaret Hospital could handle any stress on its resources.

United Nations Young Leader for Sustainable Development Goals Kristeena Monteith, who also resided in the eastern parish, told The Gleaner that every resident of the parish must play their part to keep the virus at bay.

“All political leadership can do right now is to get information into the communities to help people stay vigilant. They need to understand the severity of the disease, and where Ministry of Health guidelines are not being followed, ... investigate, support financially or otherwise, and apply sanctions,” she said.

“But when this is all over, we need to talk about roads; water and electricity supply; in-parish job prospects; transportation; mental health services; fixing gender inequality and ending sexual and family violence; support for industries, including agriculture, mining, and manufacturing; and especially, upgrading telecommunications,” the young leader added.