“Miss, dem say is no movement day, suh mi sit down here suh and naah move,” a homeless man said as he sat on the piazza of a business place in Half-Way Tree, St Andrew, observing the near stillness around him.
The normally bustling town — which even has a strong pulse on Sundays –is expectedly quiet due to a national lockdown being in effect. Except for a few state-owned Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC) buses, there was no sign of public transportation in this nerve centre. The few vehicles that were spotted on the roadway found themselves being routinely checked by police personnel to determine whether the occupants are permitted to be out of their homes.
Jamaicans have been under lockdown since Saturday night as the Government seeks to slow the spread of COVID-19.
The homeless man, who appeared quite knowledgeable about the restrictions that have been imposed, said he was not prepared to take any chances with his liberty by violating the no-movement order.
“Nobody is going to lock mi up because mi nah move,” he said.
The imposition of the lockdown measures form part of the Government’s infection prevention and control measures, and are also aimed at reducing hospitalisations and deaths. Based on data provided by the Ministry of Health and Wellness, there were 573 persons in hospitals being treated for COVID as of Saturday. Of that number, 56 were listed as critical, which means that they require hospitalisation and oxygen support, as well as highly specialised staff and equipment.
At the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI) approximately a dozen patients were seen outside the accident and emergency section — some of whom were in their nightgowns — with oxygen masks on their faces.
Data from the Ministry of Health and Wellness also indicate that the UHWI has reached its capacity to receive COVID-19 patients. The situation is just as grim at other facilities. Cornwall Regional Hospital is at 110 per cent of its capacity, Spanish Town Hospital is at 160 per cent, May Pen Hospital is at 108 per cent, Mandeville Hospital is at 160 per cent, Savanna-la-Mar Public General Hospital is at 167 per cent and St Ann’s Bay Hospital is at 135 per cent of capacity.