Tourism Minister, Hon. Edmund Bartlett, says front-line industry workers could be among the persons being prioritised to receive the coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine during the initial phase of the Government’s vaccination programme, slated for rollout in April.
He said that other front-line professionals being targeted include healthcare workers, members of the security forces (police and soldiers), and teachers.
“I have been pushing to ensure that they (tourism workers) get in the first batch, or as quickly as possible thereafter,” the Minister said.
Mr. Bartlett also advised that a number of hoteliers have been “very responsive” to the Government’s proposed vaccination programme.
“The [operators] are saying that they [too] will [undertake to] acquire vaccines, to enable the workers to get [vaccinated] free of cost,” the Minister further informed, while describing the gesture as “very good”.
He was speaking during the closing session of the 16th Jamaica Stock Exchange (JSE) Regional Investments and Capital Markets Conference at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston, on Thursday (January 28).
Mr. Bartlett said the administration of vaccines will be pivotal in better managing COVID-19 in Jamaica, enabling the rollout of the tourism industry’s workforce in a “very strong way”, and bringing more visitors to the island.
“We (Government) are very concerned, now, about the levels of infection. So, hopefully, with the [administration of the] vaccine [we] will see a reduction,” he added.
While noting that from the curative aspect for COVID-19, “we haven’t had a full answer to that,” Mr. Bartlett is, nonetheless, optimistic that “we will be in a position to mitigate the risk, once we have a vaccine available for everybody”.
He cautioned, however, that in light of the fact that “we’re going to have COVID-19 with us for a while,” it is imperative that all existing infection- prevention protocols and safeguards be maintained.
“So, all of the standard practices that have now become global… physical distancing, wearing of masks, and the sanitisation regimes, all of that will have to continue as we get vaccinated. Hopefully, we can have herd immunity setting in as quickly as possible,” Mr. Bartlett added.