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Persons With Vaccination Appointments Allowed To Break Curfew Says Jamaica's Health Minister.

Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton has said that the people with COVID-19 vaccination appointments will be afforded free movement to and from inoculation sites during the weekend lockdown. Addressing a press conference on Thursday evening, Tufton urged people with appointments to still turn up for the jabs despite the curfew.

“The constabulary has been advised by the Government to exercise appropriate allowances for persons who are going to the sites. So don’t let the 12 o’clock shutdown on Saturday or all day Sunday affect your movement once you are going to get vaccinated. That is already decided on and in place,” he said.

The Government has lowered the age group for persons in line to get the first jab of the COVID-19 vaccination this weekend to 60 years and older, with teachers and tourism workers now cleared to register as the country goes into a national weekend lockdown to curtail the spread of the deadly virus. The national vaccination drive will seek to give at least 50,000 persons their first jabs over three or four days, including the weekend.

On Thursday, 75,000 additional doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine arrived in the island. “We think we are now in a position to have a national roll-out, which will mean every parish, and in some instances, multiple locations in parishes. So we starting on Saturday, and we go back to Monday, possibly Tuesday. In the meantime, the other health centres will be open doing their regular vaccinations, but the blitz sites are intended to bring out as many as possible,” he said.

“In this instance, we are collaborating with members of parliament, with the local municipal authorities, with the church fraternity, citizens’ associations. We are essentially saying to all of Jamaica, if you are 60 years and over, register [using] the website or the toll-free line. If you cannot get registered, even though we would prefer that, still visit a site, and we will try to process you on the given days.”

The health minister explained the rationale for prioritizing teachers and hotel workers.“We have to start planning to get back into the classrooms, and our children are waiting on that, and we are anxious, as a Government, to ensure that the education system begins to function in the normal way. And if you go by the two-jab arrangement, it’s important to get our teachers started now so that when they are to get the second jab in eight to 10 weeks, they would be protected in time for the resumption of face-to-face sessions, perhaps in September or before,” Tufton explained.

“ In planning for the resumption of economic activity, we felt that we should give our tourism workers an opportunity to begin to protect themselves against any increase in visitor arrivals, which we anticipate will happen in the near future, based on what is happening elsewhere in the world and the processing and the vaccination programme globally. So it was important to begin that process. Now, there are others. I mean our border protection and control staff like the immigration officers and others, I think, represent an important part, and so they are included.”

Minister of Health and Wellness Dr Christopher Tufton accepting a shipment of 75,000 doses of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines shortly after it arrived at the Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston via a chartered flight from Ghana on Thursday, April 8

(This story was first published in the Jamaica Gleaner)

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