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New COVID clampdown - Whitfield Town, Waterford hot on virus radar

Published:Wednesday | October 7, 2020 | 12:18 AMEdmond Campbell/Senior Staff Reporter
A lone figure walks along Alexander Road in Whitfield Town, Kingston, more than an hour after a 6 p.m. curfew was imposed in the community on Tuesday. Whitfield Town and Waterford, St Catherine, will face tougher restrictions on movement and public gatheri
A lone figure walks along Alexander Road in Whitfield Town, Kingston, more than an hour after a 6 p.m. curfew was imposed in the community on Tuesday. Whitfield Town and Waterford, St Catherine, will face tougher restrictions on movement and public gatherings because of a rise in coronavirus cases and deaths.

With 24 active cases of COVID-19 and five deaths recorded in Waterford, St Catherine, and 21 cases in Whitfield Town, Kingston, the Government has imposed a curfew on the densely populated communities to prevent an exponential spike of the highly contagious virus.

The curfew took effect at 6 o’clock Tuesday evening and ends at 5 a.m. today. The measure will continue each day until October 20.

During curfew hours, only essential workers with identification will be allowed to enter or exit these communities.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness, in a statement to Parliament on Tuesday, said that Kingston, St Andrew, and St Catherine accounted for almost 70 per cent of new COVID cases in September.

The country reported a total of 7,109 cases as at October 5 with 4,216 being active, while 2,674 people have recovered. To date, 123 deaths are linked to COVID-19. Currently, 140 people are hospitalised, with 39 being moderately ill and 12 critical.

In Waterford and Whitfield Town, the gathering limit will be capped at six in any public space from October 7 to 19.

Holness said that other restrictions, such as the wearing of mask and physical distancing, will be strictly enforced in these communities.

He, however, pointed out that residents are allowed to go to work, take public transportation, and carry out shopping, visit the doctor, and conduct business activities.

For the rest of the country, the 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew will remain until the morning of October 18.

Steps have also been made to discourage parties and gatherings on the Heroes weekend later this month. The curfew hours during the Heroes weekend will be from 3 p.m. on Sunday, October 18, to 8 a.m. the following day. On Heroes Day, the curfew will again begin at 3 p.m. and end at 5 a.m. on Tuesday, October 20.

The tighter holiday measures appear to be a reaction to widespread criticism faced by the Holness administration when the late August spike in coronavirus cases was linked to a lax curfew window for Emancipation and Independence.

On Wednesday, October 21, the curfew will move to 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. each day, ending on the morning of November 1.

With questions being raised as to why the Government has not moved the curfew hours to 10 p.m. or 11 p.m., the prime minister indicated that the level of compliance with the current measures would determine how the country proceed during the Christmas season.

“If it gets out of hand now, then we would have no choice but to have tighter measures during Christmas,” he said.

Meanwhile, Cabinet approved additional changes to take effect on October 10.

Applicants on the visitjamaica platform will no longer be required to upload their COVID-19 test certificate. They will, however, be required to present it and the usual travel authorisation at the airport when they check in for their flight.

While the pretesting requirement for visitors from high-risk countries will be maintained, the procedure will be modified to permit both polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and antigen tests.

“This should make it easier for visitors – both tourists and our Jamaican diaspora – to meet the pretesting requirement as antigen tests are much more readily available and are faster and cheaper than PCR tests,” the prime minister said.

Meanwhile, Holness told his parliamentary colleagues that the Disaster Risk Management Act would be amended to address concerns by certain segments of the society who felt that the law did not provide a clear provision for the prosecution of those who violate the “protocols”.

He indicated that the language of the legislation has been adjusted to make it clear that directions are being given under the order which is enforceable under Section 52 of the law.

edmond.campbell@gleanerjm.com