Tufton issues warning to Jamaicans disobeying COVID-19 rules

GOVERNMENT could step up action against individuals who are returning to the island and not following the regulations established to combat a climb in COVID-19 cases.

Minister of Health and Wellness Dr Christopher Tufton has warned that the Government could move to a greater enforcement of the $1-million fine or six months in prison penalty for people who breach the rules designed to prevent the community spread of the novel coronavirus.

Addressing a media briefing yesterday Tufton expressed concern that some of the individuals who have returned to the island since the borders were opened on June 1 are not following the isolation guidelines.

He noted that 34 people who have arrived in the island since June 1 have tested positive for COVID-19. This includes 12 new cases confirmed yesterday, which moved the number of positive cases to 638, with 417 or 72 per cent having recovered.

Of the 12 new cases yesterday, nine people had come into the island since June 1, with three being contacts of a person who had recently returned to the island.

The case of the person who had transmitted the virus to family members was a particular worry for Tufton and his health team.

“We have discovered, in the last 24 hours that… one imported case since June 1, testing at the airport, discovering that it was a positive case, that person was extracted from their home.

“Subsequent tests of the family members revealed that there are three positive cases in that home, which would have been transmitted from the person who came in,” said Tufton, as he argued that the stay-at-home order now in place is to protect those who come into the island as well of individuals with whom they might come in contact.

“I know that [people] who have a family member who comes in… you are going to be excited to see that person… but when we say you need to quarantine yourself — stay by yourself in a room, in a space — and minimise the risk of contact until you get the test result; it is a very important directive,” added Tufton.

He noted that with approximately 1.2 per cent of the approximately 1,000 people who have returned to the island since June 1 testing positive for COVID-19, it is not yet a crisis, but warned that this could change if the rules are not followed.

“I have gotten a lot of anecdotal messages about persons seeing persons in a store, at the wharf, who just came in, and they have been to some form of gathering of one kind or another. I don’t have hard evidence, but I do get the messages.

“Frankly speaking, I expect that there is going to be a margin of error there in terms of whether or not… everyone complies,” added Tufton.

While accepting that the State agencies would not be able to enforce the orders, Tufton called on Jamaicans to self-regulate to prevent the spread of the virus.

“Because there are going to be persons who feel… either because they think they are invincible, or they are just idiots, or they don’t care, or they may think they have something that just needs to be done, they are going to breach the orders,” said Tufton.

— Arthur Hall

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