Aug 6, 2020

Jamaica Prime Minister Andrew Holness Press Conference Transcript August 6

Jamaica Prime Minister Andrew Holness Press Conference Transcript August 6
RevBlogTranscriptsPress Conference TranscriptsJamaica Prime Minister Andrew Holness Press Conference Transcript August 6

The Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness held a press conference to provide a coronavirus update on August 6. Read the transcript here.

Transcribe Your Own Content

Try Rev and save time transcribing, captioning, and subtitling.

Prime Minister: (00:00)
… as a result, significant calls for us to shut down our economy again, take measures to shut down the economy. Because that is the sense of fear that many Jamaicans will have. Now, the irresponsible behavior of a few has created a significant dilemma for the government. Our economy has taken a massive hit. I have been to some communities over the past few days, gone into the craft markets, checked on some of the resort towns, and they are feeling it. But one weak fence could undermine the entire progress which the economy has been making.

Prime Minister: (01:03)
So the cabinet has contemplated stricter measures, and we have narrowed down the list of recommended actions that we will take. We will not announce them today, because as is the practice whenever we are going to take some measures, especially those that impact significantly on stakeholders, we tend to consult. And some measures require that we give notice.

Prime Minister: (01:37)
So today still is a holiday. We were not able to consult with all the stakeholders. Between tomorrow and Tuesday, when we go to parliament, we should finalize what we have decided to do. And those will be reflected in a new Disaster Risk Management Act order. It does contemplate measures, affecting the places of worship. We have agreed, and we have consulted with some of our church leaders that conventions and conferences for churches should be prohibited.

Prime Minister: (02:24)
Now to be fair to the churches, and I have to point this out, I would suspect that all the churches within that organization and indeed other established churches would have already, many of them, postponed or canceled conventions that were due to be held. So they were acting responsibly even without the government placing it into the order. However, I think it is now necessary for this to be specifically placed in the order. And it would therefore be one of those acts which would attract a penalty.

Prime Minister: (03:09)
So we have also contemplated what we will do with entertainment. We will not say that today, except to say that I hear the cries. I got a voice note from one popular entertainer, and I will call his name, he’s an entertainer he wants his name to be called anyway, Ricky Trooper, I’ve heard you sir, I’ve heard you, and many others regarding the investments that they are making. Know you have ministers who understand entertainment, Minister McKenzie, and Minister Grange, and Minister Bartlett, they are sympathetic. We are sympathetic. We understand. What we ask you to understand that we can’t put the entire country at risk. If we allow entertainment to emerge, then we expect that you must be responsible. And as we have been using moral suasion, entertainers are more influential than politicians.

Prime Minister: (04:20)
So if you truly want your industry to reemerge, use your powerful voice to encourage the people who subscribe to your parties and attend to follow the protocols. You see, friends Jamaicans, on this our Independence Day, we can’t hide from this disease. We can’t hide from this virus. We’re going to have outbreaks over and over and over again. Despite our best efforts, someone will act irresponsibly. And even when we all act responsibly, there will be events beyond our control. And therefore the solution is not always to go into lockdown. We have to go into lockdown to bring things under control; but the solution is to ensure that every single Jamaican is a strong fence, that we act responsibly, that’s the only way. And we have stood at this platform and on others, and we have said, “We will prosecute. We will prosecute.” But we are very reluctant to do so. But I believe now, I am certainly convinced in my mind, that the only way that we are going to be able to confront this disease, keep our economy going, ensure that we can recover from the recession and remain healthy, is to prosecute those who deliberately go out of their way to ignore the law and place all of us at risk.

Prime Minister: (06:12)
We have also contemplated actions as it relates to beaches and rivers. Now, again, I get all the clips and the pictures, and when I see them, I send them on to the security forces and I ask whether or not this is true or not. Because the impact of social media and other people sending you material is that it could influence you in the wrong way. So a part of my own verification is that whenever anything comes to me, I check it.

Prime Minister: (06:54)
So yes, some of the pictures that we have seen are not true, are of events past. But we can confirm that there are some beaches, and we have seen them, that people are attending those beaches and rivers and they are not following the protocols. The Minister of Local Government will, between now and Tuesday, make some announcements regarding beaches and rivers.

Prime Minister: (07:26)
Under the Controlled Reentry Program, which specifically has to do with how Jamaicans and non-Jamaicans reenter the country, or enter the country for the first time, we have contemplated some measures around requiring tests before entry, which we call pretesting. We have contemplated measures regarding quarantine. I can say that we have decided that residents and Jamaican, well the term to appropriately describe would be, “Jamaican residents,” including those who don’t have a Jamaican passport or citizenship, but who live in Jamaica.

Prime Minister: (08:21)
So anyone returning to Jamaica must, must, go under quarantine. Anyone who is visiting Jamaica most go on quarantine. Now, as it relates to persons coming to visit the Resilient Corridor, those persons will continue to be under the Stay in Zone Order. And the Stay In Zone Order is going to be policed on a stricter term. In fact, I gather, I was told today that the police have actually started to seriously police the corridor, and they have actually arrested and charged one visitor so far.

Prime Minister: (09:13)
So we are going to be strictly enforcing the rules. We have tried, and as a government I think we have been very reasonable, very understanding, and indeed my own view is that most Jamaicans have complied. But when we get 30 cases in one day, which we can track back to individuals and irresponsible behavior then we must act, and act seriously.

Prime Minister: (09:47)
So ladies and gentleman, my fellow Jamaicans, on this our Day of Independence, the day when we celebrate Jamaica taking on its own sovereignty, and the period when we celebrate our freedom as a people from enslavement, we must recognize that freedom is not free. And though you are free and independent, you are not free and independent to do as you like to the detriment of others.

Prime Minister: (10:25)
Every citizen has a responsibility to follow the protocols, to ensure that if they are ill they stay home. If you return to the island, do not go and look for grandma and grandpa and your old auntie that you haven’t seen in how many years, call them on the phone. We have had persons dying as a result of coming into contact with persons who have visited from overseas. I should mention as well that we are going to have tighter-

Prime Minister: (11:03)
I should mention as well that we are going to have tighter restrictions on funerals, because we are also picking up that many persons are coming back to Jamaica simply for the purpose of attending funerals and leaving more people behind to die only to come back again for another funeral. No. So where we are now is that we’re going to move into a different phase of the management of the pandemic, and that is strict enforcement, because it is now clear to us that despite our best efforts and despite the best efforts of the majority of Jamaicans, as my grandmother said to me when I was a child, “If you can’t hear, you will feel.”

Christopher Tufton: (12:03)
Thank you very much, prime minister. Colleagues, McKenzie, Desmond McKenzie, Permanent Secretary Sewell, and [inaudible 00:12:14] McKenzie, distinguished ladies and gentlemen. The prime minister gave a fairly comprehensive overview as to what is happening. I just want to maybe emphasize a few things, but also add to the narrative in terms of some of the specifics that related to the communities that have been quarantined. Firstly, I want to use the opportunity just to thank the public health team because the shift from a strategy of keeping COVID out to managing COVID within the society, or living with COVID as some would say, does require a different orientation, and ongoing surveillance is critical to that process. The truth is that the public health team has been monitoring on a daily basis the cases that come up in the public health system and where there is a need for further investigation. Those investigations are carried out and a determination made as to whether or not the intervention [crosstalk 00:13:26] community level is done in a way that requires [crosstalk 00:13:30]

Speaker 1: (13:30)
I’m on TV, I’m on TV, I’m on TV, I’m on TV.

Speaker 2: (13:31)
Easy, [inaudible 00:13:31]. Easy.

Speaker 1: (13:31)
[crosstalk 00:13:31] you know? [crosstalk 00:13:31] there so. [crosstalk 00:13:33]

Speaker 2: (13:33)
Why that [inaudible 00:13:33] go on so?

Speaker 1: (13:33)
Easy, ‘cuz. Easy. [inaudible 00:13:46] We come out. We come out. We come out. Throwback. Yo, [crosstalk 00:13:51].

Christopher Tufton: (13:51)
I just want to make it clear that the approach is one that we should expect from time to time, and it is part of the management of the process-

Speaker 1: (14:01)
Yo, yo, yo, yo. Turning the mic off [crosstalk 00:14:05]

Christopher Tufton: (14:04)
… that is intended to allow life to resume normality-

Christopher Tufton: (14:08)
… whether it’s work, play, or otherwise-

Speaker 1: (14:09)
Oh, this is working. Bring up my mic just a [crosstalk 00:14:10].

Christopher Tufton: (14:10)
… as indicated by the prime minister. But at the same, ensuring that we conduct necessary surveillance to deal with [crosstalk 00:14:18] threats when those threats occur.

Speaker 1: (14:23)
You can just give me a little bit [crosstalk 00:14:23]

Christopher Tufton: (14:23)
There are a number of communities that we’re in.

Speaker 2: (14:23)
No. No, no, [crosstalk 00:14:25]

Speaker 1: (14:24)
Yeah. That’s okay.

Christopher Tufton: (14:26)
I mean, we’re in St. Catherine, a few places in the KC area.

Speaker 1: (14:30)
On the microphone.

Christopher Tufton: (14:30)
In St. Mary. Again, not elevated to the level of having quarantine arrangements.

Speaker 2: (14:36)
Microphone check, one, two, three. Hey, [crosstalk 00:14:39]

Christopher Tufton: (14:43)
But just to say that the public health team is out and are engaged. The other point I want to make is that we have almost 25,000 [crosstalk 00:14:45]. Just under 25,000 Jamaicans who are in home quarantine arrangements. And unlike in the past, we [crosstalk 00:14:53]-

Speaker 1: (14:54)
Bring up [crosstalk 00:14:56] microphone levels.

Speaker 2: (14:58)
Check, one. [crosstalk 00:14:58]

Christopher Tufton: (14:58)
… and more persons in government control institutions [crosstalk 00:15:03] quarantine arrangements.

Christopher Tufton: (15:03)
… by the prime minister, not all observe those arrangements, whether within the home and their contacts with their family members and friends or moving outside of the home when they are actually not supposed to. And importantly also, those arrangements require ongoing communication with the health authorities, particularly if you are symptomatic. If you are coughing, if you have all the symptoms that we have outlined and you stay with those symptoms or tried to self-medicate, then you’re putting yourselves at risk and of course others around you, because the transmission of the virus becomes a lot more once those symptoms occur.

Christopher Tufton: (16:02)
And indeed, as you know, very unfortunate, but the last two deaths that we had were persons who presented to the hospitals late and died unfortunately within 24 hours of presentation. And what that indicates is that they were at home with symptoms and did not turn up, and I want to just … Rural parishes. Rural parishes, yes, and came to hospital, prime minister and colleagues and Jamaica, when they were in an advanced state of respiratory distress, so they couldn’t breathe. And at that time they never left the emergency room because of the advanced state that they were in. So a critical part of the protocol that we continuously emphasize is that if you are ill, if you have symptoms, you need to make contact with your doctor or the local health center or the hospital as quickly as possible so that your chances of being treated, diagnosed, hospitalized if necessary is done in time and enhance your chances of recovery.

Christopher Tufton: (17:17)
So, the prime minister said 30 new cases in 24 hours. This is probably the largest numbers that we have had. Just to say, before the question is asked, four of that 30 are cases that are part of the backlog that we’re clearing up. The other 26 are current cases that have been tested based on samples received over a few days. I know persons are concerned about the backlog and we’re working on the backlog, but just to say, we operate on parallel tracks where we are now managing the samples that we collect on a daily basis to test within a few days, while at the same time, trying to clear up the backlog. Of the newly confirmed cases, 19 are females, 11 males. Four imported, as said earlier. The other 26 cases are 11 from Clarendon, 11 from St. Thomas, Kingston and St. Andrew two, St. Catherine one, St. Mary one, and five of the 26 cases are contacts of confirmed cases, with 21 of those cases under investigation. And just to say that under investigation is an indication of community transmission, because we now have to trace the origin. These persons present, they have the virus, and the health authorities now have to go back to look at their history and then determine as best as possible where they would have picked up that virus. In terms of the classification, we have 352 imported cases, 286 cases contacts of confirmed cases, 62 local transmission cases, not epidemiologically linked. 236 related to workplace cluster in St. Catherine, and 22 under investigation. 10 of those cases which led us to the challenges in St. Thomas, 10 of those 22 cases are from the specific area of Bamboo River and Church Corner and Summit. And we will just explain that a little more. We saw an uptick of cases in the parish of St. Thomas starting on the 31st of July. The team has been in the area working very hard over the last few days. That particular case led to the discovery of additional cases, five cases which were confirmed a few days after. Then nine additional cases, and 13 in total cases coming from the particular area that we have taken a decision to quarantine for further investigations.

Christopher Tufton: (20:14)
The breakout of the 958 positive cases, 745 or 77.8% have recovered. 52 or 5.4% have repatriated, and 12 or 1.3% have unfortunately passed. There are 149 or 15.5% active cases currently under observation, including seven moderately ill persons. And those, of course, we have to monitor very carefully. We’ve done some 41,840 tests to date and 541 new samples over the last 24 hours. And in addition to the 958 positives, there are of course 40, 835 negatives, and 47 that are pending. Now, back to St. Thomas briefly. What we have seen in st Thomas over the past four days are approximately 28 positive cases. And that led the authorities to go into the parish and to do surveillance, more direct and targeted surveillance across the parish. But the particular area in question on the quarantine have been in their estimation, viewed as areas that required a lot more an in depth examination based on what was discovered. The origin, and maybe the CMO will give better details on this, of these cases, and he highlights the need for us to be vigilant and to observe the protocol, the origin of these cases-

Christopher Tufton: (22:03)
… vigilant and to observe the protocol. The origin of these cases are quite interesting. It only takes one infected person to create the challenges that we face at the community level. In the case of Saint Thomas, it was an individual who originated from Saint Catherine, had symptoms, went into the parish to visit family and friends in the generalized area. Went to church, based on the contact tracing information, was prayed for by the congregation, based on their particular illness. And that led, this is a summary of course, to a case of members of the congregation, friends who they visited, and relatives being infected by the virus. So one person who traveled from an adjoining parish into that location, and this has led to the quarantining arrangements. Again, if you have symptoms, report it to the doctor. Visit your health center, visit your hospital. That is the way we can determine, at this time, whether or not you need particular attention, and whether you represent a risk. Don’t take chances, don’t resort to home remedy, and frankly speaking, while we certainly encourage you to pray and give God thanks and ask for guidance, I think it’s also important for you to visit your doctor and to get the medical or clinical advice on the particular situation. The quarantine area in Saint Thomas, as of 7:00 PM tonight, is as follows. [inaudible 00:23:40] has asked me to just read this out. Church Corner quarantine area, the area of interest, spans approximately 0.9 square kilometers, and is bounded by a 4.3 kilometer perimeter. North, the boundary will start at the intersection of the Morant River and the Bustamante Bridge, and will continue in a northeasterly direction along the Rozelle to Morant Bay Road, to the roundabout, and then continue along the perimeter of the Red Hills Cemetery to the intersection with the Summit Boulevard, and then easterly, where Stony Gut Avenue and Paul Place intersects. Then the boundary will continue southeasterly for approximately 0.2 kilometers to the intersection of Summit Road and Summit Grove, and then due east for approximately 0.3 kilometers to where it meets the river.

Christopher Tufton: (24:34)
East, the boundary will continue in a southerly direction along the river to where it meets the coast. South, the boundary will continue from where the river meets the coast and then continue in a southwesterly direction along the coast to where it intersects with the Morant River. And West, the boundary will continue in a northwesterly direction from the coast along the Morant River to its intersection with the Bustamante Bridge. That information will be made public. The constabulary and the JDF are on location, supported, of course, by the health team. And we certainly would appeal to persons within the boundaries of this particular space to please observe the quarantine arrangements. It’s there to protect you. The health team will be in the area. The Ministry of Labor will be giving support as it relates to supplies, the National Health Fund, and others.

Christopher Tufton: (25:33)
And again, the more cooperation we get, then the sooner we can manage the process, reduce the risk, and life can go back to normality. And of course, this affects Bamboo River and Church Corner and Summit, where we have had some 16 cases, I am told.

Christopher Tufton: (25:54)
We have announced the boundaries of Sandy Bay, so I won’t go over that, Prime Minister. The team is in place and work is currently being done on the ground, and that will continue for the next two weeks. So far, persons have been very cooperative. The same rules apply as is the case of Saint Thomas.

Christopher Tufton: (26:17)
And again I want to say, it took a case, in this instance, of one individual who came back from abroad. We initially discovered that there was an issue based on a presentation at the May Pen Hospital. We traced back to the home of that individual. Five members of her family were infected. One member is a dominant player, a pastor or deputy pastor, of a particular church. The contact tracing led back to the church, where it was discovered, based on another person who was positive, to another church where the team visited, where church was in session. And as the team describes it, absolutely no protocols were observed in terms of the physical distancing, the wearing of masks, and persons were closely seated. There were three members in the church at the time when they were visited that had symptoms. They were ill; they were coughing. And of course, that led to quite a number of members of that church being infected.

Christopher Tufton: (27:35)
It was eventually discovered that the deputy pastor of the church had come back from the U.S. and was positive, and that seems to have been where it all started. Our health team, our contact tracers do a very good job in investigating each case, and they eventually get to where the source is. But it all starts with a source, and that source is normally a number of one. And as a consequence, many others are impacted.

Christopher Tufton: (28:09)
So again, we cannot stress or emphasize how important it is for Jamaicans to observe the quarantine, the arrangements, sorry, the protocols, as it relates to general behavior, the wearing of masks, the physical distancing, the reporting, if you are symptomatic. And for those who have been asked to stay home, we need the support of the community to ensure that persons comply. And as the prime minister said, if we have to increase the enforcement mechanisms or measures, we will certainly be doing that.

Christopher Tufton: (28:43)
I just want to finally reassure, as the prime minister has done, the country that we are going to have these cases popping up at different points throughout the country. And the ministry, supported, of course, by the government, is prepared to deal with these cases. It was always envisioned that, once you begin to lift restrictions, allow more persons to come in, restore a sense of normality for persons to go to work, play, otherwise, you’re going to be taking on greater risk.

Christopher Tufton: (29:24)
And so, that’s why we’re training over 1,200 community health aides and deploying them. That’s why we’re going to be adding over 100 more doctors, medical officers. Public health inspectors are going to be added also. And that’s why we have to continue the messaging. And the team is out there, they are mobilized. I’ve been around the country over the past week, in some of the training sessions. They are motivated, they are working hard, and they are playing their part.

Christopher Tufton: (29:52)
And so, when these things happen, it’s not a call to panic, but it’s important for us to recognize that a lot can be avoided if we all play our part. Everyone counts. That’s our motto in the Ministry of Health. We need to play our part. And if we do that, I think we can cauterize and neutralize these risks once they appear. Thank you very much.

Prime Minister: (30:24)
I don’t think I’ll take off my mask.

Speaker 3: (30:27)
Thank you very much. Thank you very much, Prime Minister. Ladies and gentlemen of the media, we’ll take just a few questions. The Prime Minister has indicated that it is a working holiday. He will not say, but let me say that the Prime Minister actually has another meeting to rush off to, so let’s just quickly take some questions, as many as we can. I see and recognize Brithney Clarke from Nationwide first. And I think I see two other hands that are up. Prime Minister, Brithney, you can go ahead with your question please. All right. We’re not hearing Brithney at all. Have you unmuted your mic?

Prime Minister: (31:14)
Unmute your mic, Brithney.

Brithney Clarke: (31:17)
Okay. Are you hearing me now?

Speaker 3: (31:18)
We’re hearing you perfectly now. Go ahead, please.

Brithney Clarke: (31:24)
Thank you. All right, Prime Minister Holness, one of the issues you mentioned was regarding quarantine, but we understand that [inaudible 00:31:30] quarantine, regarding that persons [inaudible 00:31:31] not staying home. So what were the security forces-

Prime Minister: (31:30)
I’m sorry, Brithney. Could we just ask that your volume be turned up a bit?

Speaker 3: (31:34)
Oh, could you start over again for us, Brithney? Go ahead.

Brithney Clarke: (31:46)
Any better?

Prime Minister: (31:46)
Yes.

Brithney Clarke: (31:47)
Okay, great. So the issue surrounding quarantine, we know that one of the issues was that persons were simply not staying home. So what exactly would the security forces and the state be doing differently to ensure that persons who must be in quarantine will actually remain in quarantine or be held accountable otherwise? Will there now be in-person checkings by the security forces, or will the government be expanding their quarantine facilities? Or what exactly will be in place?

Prime Minister: (32:08)
So you would have heard that we have just under 25,000 persons in home quarantine. There is absolutely no way that the state can check everyone. However, we do have methods, which we won’t reveal all of them, but you have the JamCOVID19 app, which does some amount of geo-fencing. And if that is breached, we have a monitoring station which allows us to identify the person who has breached. Now, each breach would have to be investigated because there are a variety of things that could cause the geo-fence breach. The police and the health officials make random checks at times, at addresses. And obviously, if you should be at home-

Prime Minister: (33:03)
[inaudible 00:33:00] and obviously, if you should be at home under quarantine order, and you are not, and an authorized officer establishes that you are not, then you would be in breach. And of course, each case would turn on its own evidence.

Prime Minister: (33:15)
So the issue now is for the government to use all the methods at its disposal to go through the process of charging, which would mean certain amount of investigation, some amount of surveillance, and then bringing these cases to court. You can imagine that this could literally divert resources from other important crime fighting and public order, safety, and security initiatives.

Prime Minister: (33:44)
But what we are seeing here is an emergency, and I believe that the security forces ought to treat it as such and play some effort towards ensuring that those who breach the law are prosecuted. Certainly, where we find clear cases, cases identified by the Ministry of Health, those should be investigated, and the persons who are culpable, who are at the cause of the spread should be prosecuted.

Speaker 3: (34:15)
Thank you, Prime Minister. We go over to Alphea Saunders at the Jamaica Observer. Alphea? Again, we ask everyone who’s to be identified, just unmute your microphone for us. Alphea?

Alphea Saunders: (34:29)
Hi, good evening. Are you hearing me?

Speaker 3: (34:31)
Yes. Go ahead, please.

Alphea Saunders: (34:33)
All right. I have two or three questions. The first one is the Ministry of Health has said that since June 1, the majority of cases, the positive cases, have been imported. Is the government considering closing our borders to countries that do not have COVID-19 under control?

Alphea Saunders: (34:53)
And the second question has to do with the pre-testing of visitors. Have you been able to gauge the effectiveness of this? And have we seen anybody coming in after having sent their negative results, that arrive here, but they end up being positive? Are we seeing any of that?

Prime Minister: (35:15)
Alphea, let me just answer your first question and then I’ll invite the Minister or the CMO to give the specifics on the second. So your first question is, is the government contemplating closing of our borders? That is always on the list of things. As to whether or not this is something that we will do now, there is no decision on that. Our posture is that we will have to learn to live with the pandemic, we will have to learn to live with the virus, and those would be considered your last resort. If you start to close your borders on every single outbreak, your economy will never recover, and you literally could keep yourself in a recession.

Prime Minister: (35:57)
There are other methods you will have to use to control the outbreak before you reach to those extreme measures. But just to say that they’re always on the list. Whenever the Cabinet meets, that is always discussed. We always look at what the circumstances are and apply the measures that are appropriate, proportionate, and measured. CMO? Or Minister. The CMO will …

Jacquiline Bisasor-McKenzie: (36:36)
Hi. Good evening, everyone. In terms of the pre-testing, yes, we have seen some benefits from the pre-testing. One, persons are a lot more aware. Persons recognize that we are taking this thing seriously in Jamaica, so they are making the effort to get the test done. And it has also caused a delay in our process of persons coming here, slows it down a bit so that it’s a little bit more controllable.

Jacquiline Bisasor-McKenzie: (37:09)
In terms of the actual test result, we do recognize that there will be persons who will come in that may have had a negative test and could have gotten positive within the period that it took for them to get here. So we do expect that there’s going to be some of that. And we do expect also that persons would have tested positive and have found some way to have come here with a negative result. Let us leave it at that.

Jacquiline Bisasor-McKenzie: (37:42)
So our point where we are in the managing of the epidemic is that we treat everybody that is coming in as if they are positive. That is why we have put in all these rules and policies, protocols for the management of how we operate in different institutions. We have to treat every single soul as if they are positive. The rules are not there to protect you from somebody who does not have COVID. The rules are there to protect you from somebody who has COVID. So therefore, we have to stick to the quarantine measures, and we have to ensure that other persons around us stick to the infection prevention and control measures to prevent themselves from becoming exposed, to prevent themselves from becoming infected. Thank you.

Speaker 3: (38:36)
Thank you so much, SMO. Thank you so much, Prime Minister. We did point out that this is a working holiday for you, and so I know you have another meeting that starts at 8:00.

Prime Minister: (38:45)
Yeah, which is-

Speaker 3: (38:45)
We thank you so much. We also have the acting permanent secretary in the Ministry of Health and Wellness, Miss Fabia Lamm, who is here with us, sir. We just want to thank you for your time and spending time to at least answer a few questions even on a busy holiday such as Independence Day.

Prime Minister: (38:59)
I apologize to the press. I really have to go. If Minister Tufton would like to stay and entertain you a little bit more …

Christopher Tufton: (39:06)
[inaudible 00:06:07].

Prime Minister: (39:09)
If there are questions.

Speaker 3: (39:14)
All right. So members of the media, we’ll take just two more with Minister Tufton. Let’s then go to Damion Mitchell from the Gleaner. Damion? Real quickly. Go ahead, Damion. I’m sorry. Can you unmute, Damion? We’re not hearing you.

Damion Mitchell: (39:34)
Yes.

Speaker 3: (39:34)
Yes, go ahead.

Damion Mitchell: (39:36)
Thank you. Minister, there’s an area we haven’t heard much about, and that’s the issue of the prisons. Can you indicate the outcome your assessment in respect of the COVID containment protocols in penal institutions?

Christopher Tufton: (39:47)
Okay. Well, first of all, let me say that we do have a protocol as it relates to a number of our institutions, prisons, infirmaries. And in terms of the prisons, we have not had any cases of COVID in those institutions. And that’s because of, I suspect, the protocol that we have in place, the alertness of those who are involved, the fact that the health authorities do keep in touch and provide appropriate levels of guidance. So nothing yet as it relates to our prisons. We did have a scare as it relates to an infirmary in Saint Ann, but we were able to deal with that quickly and address that particular threat at the time.

Speaker 3: (40:35)
All right. I see Damion trying to get another one in. Real quickly, Damien. Yes.

Damion Mitchell: (40:40)
No, I’m sorry. The minister has not responded to the question. I’m asking him for the outcome of the assessment of the current protocols in the prisons.

Christopher Tufton: (40:49)
I thought I did answer, but the protocol that was put in place in conjunction with the prison authorities and the Ministry of Health has been implemented, is being monitored. And the outcome is that we have not had any cases of COVID within the prison system. I’m not sure if that’s the question you’re asking. So, so far so good. We have been abiding by the terms of the protocol, and we have not had any issues in the prison system.

Speaker 3: (41:21)
All right. Thanks, Damien. Let’s go to Vanessa Silvera at JIS. Vanessa?

Vanessa Silvera: (41:30)
Hello? Can you hear me?

Speaker 3: (41:31)
Yes, go ahead.

Vanessa Silvera: (41:33)
All right. Thanks. Happy Independence Day, everybody. My question is, doctors have been having difficulties when trying to call in to report suspected cases of COVID-19. Are the hotlines for the medical professionals still active?

Christopher Tufton: (41:51)
The short answer to that is, yes. We still have a team of persons who man the switchboard or the line.