Jamaica Chamber of Commerce (JCC) President, Lloyd Distant Jr.
Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters Association (JMEA) President, Richard Pandohie, is urging greater adherence by more Jamaicans to the Government’s coronavirus (COVID-19) infection prevention and control measures.
He says this is imperative to stem the current surge in COVID-19 cases, which have spiraled past 36,000 with more than 530 deaths, and eventually flatten the local outbreak.
Mr. Pandohie tells JIS News that based on the hospitalisation caseloads being reported, the public health system “is under pres
sure [and] pretty much near breaking point”, stressing that “this can’t be allowed to happen”.
Against this background, he says the JMEA fully supports the revised measures to contain the spread which were announced on March 21 by Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, specifically the expanded curfews over three weekends, beginning midday on April 27, which will entail partial lockdowns to restrict movement.
While noting that he and other private-sector stakeholders have called for a reduction in the curfew hours to facilitate greater commercial activity, a positon that “we still stand by”, Mr. Pandohie
emphasises that the Government’s COVID-19 response strategy had to be revised based on the current scenario.
“The numbers are frightening. And when you hear about people turning up at hospitals for treatment, not only for COVID, but other ailments, and they can’t get it… then we have to do everything we can to try and pull [the rate of infection] back. So, the Government’s decision is a shift in strategy based on our current reality,” he argues.
While citing a “strong” COVID-19 vaccination programme as key to arresting the spread and flattening the local outbreak, Mr. Pandohie also contends that “if Jamaicans, on a whole, were to adhere to the measures and ensure that the protocols that are outlined are observed, it would go a long way to, at least, reducing the accelerated trend that we are seeing”,
“Because, if these don’t work, then the Government will be forced to take even stronger measures. You can’t have any economic recovery taking place if you don’t have healthy people; so everything, ultimately. lies in our own hands as citizens. While the Government is guiding the national response effort, at the end of the day, what they attain also depends on what we do, individually and collectively,” he adds.
Jamaica Chamber of Commerce (JCC) President, Lloyd Distant Jr., says while from a business perspective, they prefer not to have interventions that restrict trade, “we are nonetheless appreciative [of the fact] that something needed to be done by the Government, based on the increasing numbers that we’re seeing”.
He tells JIS News that against this background, the JCC acknowledges the thinking behind the expanded weekend curfews, among other measures, while noting that “this partial lockdown… would still allow some business/economic activity to take place”,
Mr. Distant further emphasises the importance of provisions facilitating greater enforcement of the COVID-19 protocols.
“We are very mindful that this only works if there is proper policing. To date, we have not seen that. So, we are hoping that, on this occasion, we will see [more effective] enforcement of the measures announced by the Government,” he adds.
Small Business Association of Jamaica (SBAJ) President, Michael Leckie, says the organisation “supports all actions that can potentially reduce COVID-19 deaths and hospitalisations”.
He also tells JIS News that while the extended curfews “will affect our businesses,” the Government was “left with no choice” but to pursue the revised measures embarked on, while attributing the current surge to indiscipline on the part of individuals.
“We, as a people, we need to take our own personal responsibility seriously… [but] that’s, largely, not happening. I think there is need for a more aggressive public education drive to make persons more aware of what is happening… so /that they can respond accordingly,” Mr. Leckie says.
For his part, business analyst, Warren McDonald, notes that the number of COVID-19 hospitalisations and deaths is unacceptable, hence “something had to be done”.
“I can see what the thinking is behind the decision to impose the expanded weekend curfews. I don’t think we have any choice in that regard,” he said.
Mr. McDonald contends, however, that the curfews and other measures announced to control the COVID-19 spread are short-term measures designed to “hold the fort until we have a permanent fix… which is vaccinations”.
“So, I think the focus should also be on increasing and quickening the pace of vaccinations… and trying to [get to] the point where we can get herd immunity against COVID-19,” he tells JIS News.
“So, I’m encouraging our businesses to, where possible, facilitate work-from-home arrangements for staff and ensure that they are being sensitised about the infection prevention and control measures and that these are being administered in the workplace,” he says.
Further, he is encouraging all persons to adhere to measures such as wearing masks in public spaces, thoroughly washing and sanitising hands frequently, avoiding crowded areas, and physical distancing.
Mr. Pandohie expresses the hope that the latest set of revised measures will yield some positive results.
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The Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce is described as Jamaica's "Business Ministry." It's mandate is to lead the development of policies that will create growth and jobs, while achieving social inclusion and consumer protection. The Ministry, working its stakeholders is primarily responsible for business policy development, monitoring and evaluation, while giving direction and oversight to a cluster of implementing departments and agencies.
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