The Jamaican government is defending its decision to block citizens and other passengers from entering the island for 14 days, starting tonight, March 21.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness, who made the announcement during a press conference in Kingston yesterday, noted that outgoing traffic and incoming cargo will be allowed.
He said the move is an effort to minimize the spread of the highly contagious and potentially deadly coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
The prime minister announced: “The decision has been taken that, with effect from 11:59PM on Saturday, March 21, 2020, and for a period of 14 days in the first instance, Jamaica’s air and sea ports will be closed to incoming passenger traffic. Outgoing passenger and cargo will be allowed.”
He further stated that, while members of the diaspora will be affected, the decision had to be taken to stop imported cases of the virus.
“We deliberated very carefully,” the prime minister said, adding: “It was always on the books that the airports would have to be closed. Jamaica is not the only one doing it.”
Prime Minister Holness noted that the entertainment minister, Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange, has been getting many calls from the entertainment community and students abroad regarding being barred from entering the island.
“Stay put; stay where you are,” he advised, adding: “I know it is difficult. Some people may not be able to find food and shelter because some of them are in schools and the schools are closed and they are being sent home. We know. In as much as we can help; that is the next phase; we will have to work out how that is done. It’s a difficult time, our prayers are with you and we will try to see what else we can offer as assistance.”
Minister of Health Dr. Christopher Tufton, in the meantime, noted that most of the COVID-19 cases on the island are imported.
“The clinical advice which we are advancing to our diaspora family members is that, based on all the examinations and assessment of the virus and its spread from person to person, it is fundamental that we pause for a period in terms of our movement as part of protecting ourselves, our family members and by extension our community – whether where you are in the diaspora or your family members here in Jamaica…” he said.
The health minister added: “Ten of the 19 cases – most are imported, and persons locally who have got the virus here got it from family members who have come in. All the countries of the world are imposing restrictions, and our attempt at trying to manage the potential crisis that we face has to include reduction in the movement of persons.”
The number of COVID-19 cases confirmed in Jamaica so far stands at 19, including one death.
By Horace Mills, Journalist
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