Night curfew

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Night curfew

PM warns police will prosecute breaches of measure to stem COVID-19 spread

BY ALICIA DUNKLEY-WILLIS
Senior staff reporter
dunkleywillisa@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

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Prime Minister Andrew Holness yesterday warned that the police will increase vigilance and prosecute people who violate various orders which have been activated under law as he announced the imposition of a night-time curfew running from 8:00 pm to 6:00 am for seven days starting tomorrow.

The prime minister said the decision to place the island under curfew was motivated by the fact that some Jamaicans have not been restricting their movements as the island tries the stem the spread of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Additionally, individuals who had entered the country since March 18 have not obeyed orders to self-quarantine or contact health officials.

“Whilst there was a fairly high level of compliance with regards to the various orders that were made over the last weekend, we recognised that there is an increase in movement. This increase in movement has come at a time when we are expecting that there will be a greater probability for infections, given the fact that we had, coming into the island, close to 7,000 visitors, residents, Jamaicans, and citizens of which approximately 1,500 left the island,” the prime minister said at yesterday's digital press briefing at Jamaica House in St Andrew.

“So we are still having a considerable number of persons who have come into the island who we cannot say with certainty that they were faithful to the quarantine rules, and therefore they are generally abroad within the society, they are within the country moving around. The challenge with that is that that could be the precursor of community spread, and so the more you are moving around the more likely it is that we could have an increase in the numbers,” Holness noted.

The curfew, he said, will impose restriction on public transportation and all movement except those that will follow in the Gazette to be published today.

“Of course, we will have to make the regular exemptions that are usually made when curfews are called, for medical staff, security forces, essential services, and special provisions will be made for other critical industries. That will be announced very early (today) when the Gazette is published. We ask everyone to make the necessary arrangements in their daily affairs to ensure that everyone can be off the road,” he told the briefing.

Holness also said there will be exemptions for people in the business process outsourcing sector, which employs 38,000 workers.

“We discussed with the commissioner of police an increase in the enforcement of the orders. With the curfew will come general enforcement, but for all the other orders during the period of time allowed for work and travel, the police will increase their vigilance and prosecution of persons who violate the order,” Holness said.

He also said further considerations and monitoring will lead to a difference in the operations of markets islandwide.

“We have been monitoring our markets the various entities that have been exempted under the various orders for public gathering and we notice that there is not a faithful application of the social distancing rules or the gathering rules, especially at the markets. We cannot ignore that markets and other such areas are centres for spread, so we have taken a second look at the order for markets and we have decided that we will make an adjustment, and that is: from Thursday, Friday and Saturday, we will increase the opening hours. The order now stipulates that markets are open from 6:00 am to 2:00 pm. Now we are stipulating that markets will open at 6:00 am but close at 6:00 pm and that is to allow persons to use the markets without clustering,” he said.

Noting that people have still been keeping parties and social gatherings, funerals, grave diggings and all kinds of activities as if there is no threat, the prime minister said the police would be treating with those individuals as well.

In the meantime, he said people who continue to spread messages via social media with questionable content to cause panic would be brought to book.

“You will notice over the weekend the police stepped up efforts to interdict persons who are purveying fake news. I have heard one in which the attorney general's name was called and one with my name being used and we are hotly pursuing both. In fact, we are pursuing all of them that were designed to create mischief. There was one arrest and charge for someone in Westmoreland and there are others that have been called in,” the prime minister said.

Holness also said the Administration will be amending the relevant order to mandate that people who came into the island between March 18 and 23 and are still in the country to report to the Ministry of Health and Wellness utilising the jamcovid19. moh.gov.jm web address or call the ministry's hotline, which is 888-Onelove (663-5683).

“We ask that you utilise those two routes and we ask that you faithfully disclose to the representatives all the information that is necessary. This is a turning point in this stage of the epidemic,” he pointed out.

Jamaica now has 36 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with one death and one person who has fully recovered.


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