Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, is encouraging individuals and establishments to comply with stipulated safeguards outlined by the Government to curtail further spread of the highly infectious coronavirus (COVID-19) in Jamaica.

His appeal comes against the background of two persons being arrested and charged for breaching regulations under the Disaster Risk Management Act.

Speaking at a press conference at Jamaica House on March 23, the Prime Minister emphasised that making arrests “is the last thing I want to do”.

“I’m actually disappointed that, as a country, we have to turn to arrests. I’m very disappointed. But I would not be fulfilling my job as leader of the country if I were to allow any form of indiscipline to be rewarded by [culpable persons] not facing the consequences of the law, especially in this time of emergency,” he said.

In light of this, Mr. Holness said the police “have been mobilised to treat with this matter very seriously”.

He said this is particularly crucial at this time when “we are anticipating that we’re going to be entering the phase of COVID-19 community transmission”.

“We’re not saying that we’re there yet. But we’re close to being there, and in that phase, the numbers could rise exponentially. Once we transition into community transmission, that’s a whole different ball game and it’s very difficult to say what is going to happen,” the Prime Minister added.

Against this background, Mr. Holness urged compliance with the following stipulations: all persons 75 years and older must stay at home for 14 days, effective March 25, subject to exemptions to be specified in the relevant promulgated Order; all public-sector workers, 65 years and older, are to work from home, effective March 25, subject to specified exemptions, under the guidance of Permanent Secretaries; schools will remain closed until the end of the Easter term, consequent on an extension of the initial Order, which expires on Friday (March 27); and all persons who entered Jamaica as at March 18, must be quarantined for a further 14 days after the initial seven days expire.

Additionally, all gatherings have been further restricted to 10 persons, down from 20, for a period of 14 days as at March 25; bars and other establishments that were ordered closed will remain as such, while stipulated business hours are to be set for barber shops and salons.

Mr. Holness also advised that the work-from-home order remains in effect and will be extended for another 14 days.

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister advised that penalties under various pieces of legislation for breaches are being reviewed by Minister of Justice, Hon. Delroy Chuck, and Attorney General, Hon. Marlene Malahoo Forte, with a view to upgrading the provisions.

“The Disaster Risk Management Act gives us significant powers of control and we will be conducting most of our response under that Act. But we will upgrade the penalties, as well, under the Public Health Act,” Mr. Holness pointed out.

He added that the Government’s strategy “from day one… when we had no COVID-19 cases, was to stay on the flatter curve”.