Health official: Congestion, COVID-19 breaches blatant in Manchester

MANDEVILLE, Manchester – Chief Public Health Inspector for Manchester Charmaine Palmer-Cross says congestion in town centres in Manchester, in anticipation of weekend lockdown measures, resulted in blatant breaches of COVID-19 protocols.

Like many other town centres islandwide, Mandeville saw an overflow of traffic as people crowded supermarkets and restaurants, hours before the start of curfew hours last weekend.

“We went on a special monitoring procedure where we have been visiting the town centres, whether it be during the day or on the weekends, just to get a general idea of what is taking place in terms of the curfew and the changes in the times [for movement],” Palmer-Cross told Thursday’s sitting of the Manchester Municipal Corporation.

“What we recognised, especially on Thursday and Saturday during that period, is that there were a lot of breaches in terms of physical distancing, the sanitisation and just the general way in which people were going about their business.

“There was congestion, both on the road and in the businessplaces, especially the food-handling establishments. What we realised, even after the curfew time should have started, was that persons were scampering still to get into these facilities,” she added.

She said that supermarkets are of great concern with “people caring none at all in relation to COVID protocols”.

“It creates a bottleneck and because of that, people were breaching the protocols and putting themselves and others at risk of really transmitting the COVID-19 virus… People need to take personal responsibility. It doesn’t matter what we do or the amount of resources we pump into the system, if individuals do not take personal responsibility it is not going to be effective,” she said.

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Mandeville Mayor Donovan Mitchell has reiterated his concern about the gathering at the Mandeville tax office daily as people wait in line as early as 6:00 am.

“I walked the town and there were over 100 people already waiting in line at the tax office. At the credit union there were over 50 people there waiting already to go in, and so what you have, because of this rush and the hours shortened, more people converged. What we were trying to achieve, we were doing the opposite,” he declared.

He said the shortened hours resulted in hundreds of people crowding supermarkets whereas people were accustomed to shopping on weekends which would allow for less crowding.

Up to Friday, there were 2,334 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Manchester with 313 being active, 88 deaths and 35 patients in isolation at the Mandeville Regional and Percy Junor hospitals.

Meanwhile, the parish will this Saturday host its first COVID vaccination blitz at four locations even as medical officer of health Dr Nadine Williams said over 3,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine have been administered in the parish since March 10.

“We have administered 3,093 doses of the vaccine… We have organised with our stakeholders to have a blitz session at the Manchester High School on Saturday and Sunday,” she said.

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Other vaccination sites which will be operational on the weekend are the Christiana Health Centre in Manchester North East, the Downs Health Centre in south Manchester, as well as the Mandeville Regional Hospital.

The minimum age for people to register to get the COVID-19 vaccination during this weekend’s blitz has been reduced to 60 years old.

Staff members from the Department of Correctional Services, Jamaica Fire Brigade, Passport Immigration and Citizenship Agency, Jamaica Customs, tourism workers, teachers, and other employees of educational institutions are also prioritised for vaccination this weekend.

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