JAMAICA | Medical Fraternity questions full withdrawal of COVID-19 Restrictions

JAMAICA | Medical Fraternity questions full withdrawal of COVID-19 Restrictions

KINGSTON, March 18, 2022 -  The Government's withdrawal of measures under the Disaster Risk Management Act (DRMA) announced by Prime Minister Andrew Holness on Thursday has not gone down very well with some members of the medical fraternity.

Medical Association of Jamaica (MAJ) president Brian James says that the COVID-19 crisis, which is still gripping other countries, could thrust Jamaica into another hotspot within a month.

This he says is more worrisome due to the low vaccination rates among Jamaicans and pointed to China and sections of Europe currently experiencing a spike in cases linked to the new BA.2 sub-variant of Omicron.

Speaking Thursday on Radio Jamaica’s Beyond The Headlines, Dr. James pointed out that Jamaica's history shows that once COVID-19 is widespread in certain countries, it will multiply in Jamaica much faster. 

"Our history so far over the past four waves is that whither the UK goes, there we shall go within about three weeks to a month. What we have to do is learn from the things that have worked. We have to try and avoid precipitously dropping measures," he emphasized. 

Now that COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted, Dr. James believes there is a need for a stronger focus on "very strident and pervasive public education". 

“I am hoping that this is what the public health officials have indicated would be safe and appropriate, and I am also hoping that in conjunction with relaxation of these things that the procedures are in place. For example, with the lift on the entertainment sector I hope that there are protocols that all the stakeholders are aware of and there will be appropriate safeguards and monitoring of these protocols,” said Dr.James.

In his contribution to the 2022/23 Budget Debate, Holness said that after two years of dexterously balancing lives and livelihoods with executive powers under the DRMA, all measures under the Act will be withdrawn.

“While we acknowledge that the pandemic is not over, it must be mainstreamed into general, normal management of public health, safety, and public order. It is no longer sustainable to manage the pandemic as a special project by executive order through the Disaster Risk Management Act. However, risks still remain and continued vigilance is necessary, especially for vulnerable populations,” said Holness.

The MAJ president said he was surprised about the removal of nightly curfews: “I knew that there clearly would be some relaxation. I was anticipating that the curfew would have been pushed back a little bit, not necessarily taken away all together.”

“We have experienced in the past — last year July 1 — when we lifted the restrictions from the entertainment sector and we realised that people did not conform to all of the measures that were still in place, and so it caused us to suffer the third wave at that time. I continuously live in hope that people will learn from those kinds of experiences and they will conform this time. I think it is the responsibility of the authorities to keep on driving home the message and keep on encouraging people to get vaccinated,” he said.

Jamaica Medical Doctors' Association President Dr Mindi Fitz-HenleyJamaica Medical Doctors' Association President Dr Mindi Fitz-HenleyIn the meantime, the Jamaica Observer quoted the Jamaica Medical Doctors' Association President Dr Mindi Fitz-Henley as saying that “the masking is something that I think we have to be very careful of because persons who are, unfortunately, unwell are still coming out. Those are persons, especially, who need to be wearing a mask so that they are not infecting other persons,” she said.

“I think another thing is not to belittle or make fun of persons who continue to wear their masks religiously because it is very clear that COVID has showed us that persons with specific medical illnesses, who are a lot more at risk of developing serious complications, are dying from COVID,” she added.

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