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Luck, vigilance keeping COVID-19 out of the western region

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“I would say it is both luck and best practices; as a region, we would have expended a lot of effort and time in public education, contact tracing, and so on. I would attribute our good luck to that vigilance,” said Errol Greene, regional director of the WRHA

WESTERN BUREAU:

WITH NO new COVID-19 cases in the region in over three weeks and with Hanover still hanging on to the enviable distinction of being the only parish without a case of the deadly virus, the Western Regional Health Authority (WRHA) says good luck and vigilance are keeping the virus at bay.

“I would say it is both luck and best practices; as a region, we would have expended a lot of effort and time in public education, contact tracing, and so on. I would attribute our good luck to that vigilance,” said Errol Greene, regional director of the WRHA.

At the onset of the COVID-19, which has since spawned 505 infections and nine deaths nationally, the attitude to the virus was quite cavalier, much to the chagrin of Montego Bay Mayor Homer Davis; and Janet Silvera, president of the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

However, the deaths of a Westmoreland man and a four-year-old child, in St James, have jolted residents into reality. At present, one rarely sees a person on the streets of the region without a mask and social distancing has become the new normal.

FALSE SECURITY While some may argue that the region, which only has 16 cases between Westmoreland (two), Trelawny (one), St James (eight) and St Elizabeth (five), could be in a state of false security as a result of insufficient testing, Greene says that the region is placing a major emphasis on strict compliance with the measures implemented by the Ministry of Health & Wellness.

“Our testing is being driven out of the Ministry of Health, so we are supporting the ministry in that regard. While we give full support, that is not an activity that is driven out of the region; it is driven centrally from the ministry,” explained Greene.

In Hanover, both the prominent stakeholders, who have created the COVID-19 resistance organisation, Hanover Strong, to fund and drive a relentless sanitisation and educational campaign; and ordinary residents, who have created sanitation stations at the entrance to their communities, are resolute in their drive to keep out the virus, which has resulted in over 400,000 deaths globally.

“We started putting measures in place quite early,” said Craig Oates, the compliance officer at the Hanover Municipal Corporation, in speaking to the parish’s early cleaning up and sanitisation drive. “We must commend the citizens, who have not only been following the health and safety protocols but also in keeping out outsiders.”

Shortly after St Catherine was ordered locked down by Prime Minister Andrew Holness in the aftermath of an avalanche of cases at the Alorica call centre, in Portmore, several persons fled to Hanover under the cover of darkness. However, they were quickly identified by residents, who alerted the authorities to their presence.

Although Greene believes the west has been somewhat lucky, he believes the measures being employed to stem the spread of the virus are good enough to offer to other parishes as best practices.

“They must be vigilant. We have a level of vigilance where persons would call and give us information. There was a time when the borders of St Catherine were closed; we got calls all hours of the night and day of people moving in, so we were able to investigate those persons, to interview them,” said Greene. “There’s a high level of vigilance in the four parishes of the region that I believe would have caused us to maintain the levels that we have maintained.”