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Tighter COVID-19 control measures coming soon, says Tufton

New coronavirus (COVID-19) control measures, including tighter curfew hours island-wide, are expected to be announced as early as Monday, September 7 by Prime Minister Andrew Holness, as the island enters the community transmission phase of the global pandemic.

Health and Wellness Minister, Dr Christopher Tufton, made the announcement during a virtual press briefing on Friday in St Andrew.

He said community transmission means that the virus can no longer be easily traced from one member of the population to the other.

In this regard, he said the Government will have to strengthen the infection prevention and control measures to reduce the rate of spread within the population, and more importantly, protect the vulnerable.

“Given these prerequisites, the health team has already begun to re-examine the protocols already in place and will issue new protocols to better guide the public in how we operate within the context of the new phase,” said Tufton.

“These decisions are taken by the Cabinet, led by the honourable prime minister, and we have already been in consultation with the prime minister. It’s an ongoing process, but the final decision will have to benefit from a discussion at the level of the Cabinet,” added Tufton.

According to him, some of the measures will include an increase in the curfew restrictions across the island, an increase in the stay-at-home orders for the elderly, re-emphasis on the work-from-home orders for the private and public sectors, and further tightening on restrictions of public gatherings with the possibility of reducing the number of persons who can gather in a group. The maximum is currently at 20.

The minister again said there is no need to panic.

“The government fully appreciates the concerns that persons will have and I know that there will be questions around the phase that we are in, how we got here and why. We are prepared to respond to all of the above, but we want to do so in a way that facilitates appreciation and understanding and is sufficient for persons to know how to respond and know what their role is, and not to create greater uncertainty or fear,” he said.

Tufton also urged persons to acknowledge that they too have a role to play, while adding that the state is prepared to provide them with assistance in terms of treatment and care.

“Ensure that you make every effort to boost your immunity through exercise and having an appropriate diet. Call our helplines for guidance if there are any signs of increased complications,” he advised.

The minister also encouraged persons, especially those 65 years and older or persons with hypertension and diabetes, to pay close attention to any symptoms that could be a sign of COVID-19, and to seek early medical advice if they worsen.

“I urge continued vigilance from the entire population, and remind you to practise all infection prevention and control protocols, because now more than ever, we must take personal responsibility for our health,” said Tufton.