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Gov’t seeks to calm virus fears as quarantine talk sparks resistance

Gov’t seeks to calm virus fears as quarantine talk sparks resistance


Jamaica: Living immediately across the street from the St Joseph’s Hospital in Vineyard Town, Kingston, which has been designated a quarantine centre for prospective coronavirus cases, has Sedley McCaulsky distressed.

McCaulsky told The Gleaner yesterday at his home that he was fearful of the possible implications for his five-year-old daughter, girlfriend, and in-laws.

He pondered, too, what would happen to all the children who have health cards that they say are only valid at St Joseph’s Hospital.

McCaulsky’s fears are emblematic of the anxiety that has blanketed the southeast St Andrew suburban community since residents were informed that the underused hospital would be used as a quarantine centre.

The novel coronavirus, which has so far killed more than 1,000 people with infections topping 42,000, emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December 2019 and has spread to more than two dozen countries, presenting a global healthcare emergency.

The virus has not reached Jamaica’s shores, but uncertainty about the scope of its contagion via human-to-human contact has triggered concern in some quarters, and panic in others.

Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton sought to allay those concerns yesterday during a hastily arranged press briefing where he gave an update on the grounds for quarantine and isolation.

Tufton said that between January 23 and February 8, one hundred and sixteen people travelled to Jamaica after having been in China 14 days prior to arrival. One person had mild symptoms and was immediately isolated. The person’s condition has since improved, he said.

Of the other 115, twenty-seven were not landed. Seventy-eight people were assessed as having low risk and were quarantined at home for follow-ups with local health departments. The ministry said that up to Sunday, 10 people remained confined to a quarantine facility operated by the ministry.

But it is apparent that the Ministry of Health will have to reach out further to quell the disquiet in Vineyard Town, which hosted a heated community meeting with healthcare technocrats on Sunday.


A small band of protesters raised placards yesterday to raise awareness among commuters.

“It is quite disturbing. This area is heavily traversed by people from downtown, Cross Roads, Franklyn Town, Rollington Town, Mountain View, Nannyville, which is up the road. We are in a cluster right here. In the future when there are other outbreaks, they will want to bring them here,” McCaulsky said.

“You can’t have a facility like that in such a busy environment.”

McCaulsky was also concerned that his community could be stigmatised, causing business people and investors to shy away from the area.

“Basically, you have blacklisted the community. Persons will not want to conduct business. You have properties being purchased for development. If you do things like this, persons are not going to be interested. A big bank has a development up in Georgiana Close. How is this going to affect that?” he queried.

“What I was told was that these schools have insurance for the students that is connected to St Joseph’s only. If they are to go to a different hospital, parents have to fork out money out of there pockets. They wouldn’t benefit from the insurance.”


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