Two weeks after Jamaica’s first imported coronavirus (COVID-19) patient was confirmed, Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, says the disease has made a tremendous impact on the country.

Jamaica’s first patient tested positive on March 10. To date, 21 cases have been confirmed by the Government.

“The disease has the medical and public health aspects to it, but once you get into the consideration of an epidemic, then you have the economic and social impact and, so far, because it is a novel virus, meaning it’s new to us and we do not know enough about it, it is having a tremendous impact on our ability to respond,” the Prime Minister said.

Mr. Holness was speaking at the COVID-19: Digital Town Hall for Children and Youth on television and live broadcast through his social media platforms, at Jamaica House, on Tuesday (March 24).

“So, it will have an impact on our economy, and it will have an impact on our education system. It has already had an impact on our transportation and trade… . It is having a rippling effect throughout our society, and so far, as it has been turning out, COVID-19 has had a tremendous impact,” the Prime Minister said.

He noted that the epidemic has a life span as a natural event, which lasted for two months in China, with a peak and then a decline in cases, which may happen in Jamaica.

The Prime Minister also reiterated that the Government has put measures in place to treat those infected and prevent further spread.

“The measures that we have put in place have been effective, so far, in keeping down the number of new cases, but as we reach the inflection point, meaning from what is called clustering, we [will be] able to identify the cases in a geographic area,” he said.

“We also have the social impact, the possible increase in unemployment as a result of the virus. The Government later today will announce some assistance, what we call a stimulus and care package that will assist those who have been laid off or who have lost their jobs as a result of the economic fallout,” the Prime Minister noted.

He said the programme will not be able to cover everyone. There will be specific rules that apply, and the Government will explain fully how it intends to assist persons who would be affected.