The government has threatened to punish people who violate orders it announced on Monday (March 16) to restrict the operation of several people and organizations across the island amid the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-2019).
“Be warned, the laws will be enforced,” said Attorney General Marlene Malahoo Forte, who noted that, under the Disaster Risk Management Act, people who violate the orders can be fined $1 million maximum or be imprisoned for a period not exceeding 12 months.
The officers empowered to make arrests include the police, soldiers, firemen, health officers, nurses, vets, and even the Chief Executive Officer of the National Works Agency.
The attorney general sounded the warning moments after Prime Minister Andrew Holness, during a press briefing in Kingston, announced various measures that will be in effect for seven days, starting this week Wednesday, March 18.
- Everyone in the public and private sectors, except essential workers, should work from home. He described non-essential work as ‘that which can be done outside of the traditional office setting’.
- There should be no gathering in public space of more than 20 people (including funerals, churches and weddings).
- Bars and places of entertainment such as night clubs should be closed.
- Markets will be open from 6AM to 2PM.
- Supermarkets, takeout restaurants, gas stations, corner shops and pharmacies can remain open, but with no large gathering.
- Hospital visits will be reduced to ONCE per day, and to ONE person per patient. Outpatient clinics will also be scaled down.
- JUTC and Montego Bay Metro will be required to carry only seated passengers.
- Taxis should carry one less passenger than previously stipulated.
Prime Minister Holness, who said the restrictions will be reviewed after five days, emphasized that the Government is not shutting down the economy.
At the time the measures were announced, 12 people on the island were confirmed to have COVID-2019.
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