Thursday 3 December, 2020

Jamaica locks down parish after 31 call centre workers COVID positive

The Alorica site in Portmore, St Catherine.

The Alorica site in Portmore, St Catherine.

The parish of St Catherine in Jamaica will be placed on lockdown for seven days as of 5 am, Wednesday, April 15 until 5 am, Wednesday, April 22 as the government scrambles to contain an outbreak of the deadly coronavirus (COVID-19) on the island.

The announcement was made Tuesday evening by Prime Minister Andrew Holness during a digital press conference from Jamaica House.

It followed a sharp rise in the number of COVID-19 cases from 73 to 105 in less than 24 hours, with 31 of the cases being linked to the Portmore-based Alorica call centre. 

They are among 32 new COVID-19 cases in Jamaica, bringing the total number of confirmed infections in the island to 105. The new cases involve five males and 27 females, all from St Catherine, Kingston and St Andrew, Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton announced at a press conference at Jamaica House a short while ago.

The development comes days after it was revealed over the weekend that two employees of the call centre had been infected with the disease.

It will likely fuel a growing concern over the presumed vulnerability of the BPO sector amid the coronavirus pandemic, with some people suggesting that the Holness administration should temporarily lock down the industry.

In a statement on Tuesday, Gloria Henry, president of the Global Services Association of Jamaica, formerly the Business Process Industry Association of Jamaica (BPIAJ), said the association "categorically condemns any BPO operator that does not follow the guidelines and supports actions being taken under the DRMA (Disaster Risk Management Act) against these companies.

"Regrettably, the companies that are reportedly not adhering to the guidelines are not members of the GSAJ, but it is expected and understood that they are still required to comply with these guidelines. In light of what has happened at Alorica, the GSAJ has revised the guidelines to add mandatory pre-screening to the March 19th measures that have been revised by the Association," she said.

 At a meeting on March 19, 2020, involving sector players and a representative of the Ministry of Health and Wellness, a number of measures were decided on, and agreed to be implemented, she said.

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