According to Jamaica’s Prime Minister Andrew Holness, in the last 24 hours, the number of Jamaicans infected with the Coronavirus COVID-19 has jumped from 73 to 105. 31 of those 32 new cases are linked to the Alorica contact center in Portmore, a suburb outside the capital of Kingston.
With just over 100 cases in the population of almost 3 million, Jamaica has fared better than many countries when it comes to the Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic, though its cruise & resort-focused tourism industry is extremely impacted.
Portmore is located in St. Catherine Parish, and the government has announced a 7 day halt to commercial activities and strict quarantine for the parish. A broader nocturnal curfew has been in place for the entire island country, though outside of St. Catherine Parish business remain open under restricted hours. Checkpoints will be set up to restrict ingress and egress from St. Catherine and police at those checkpoints will be equipped with thermometers to check body temperatures.
“Jamaica now has 105 cases of COVID-19. This follows 32 new additions over the last 24 hours. The vast majority of the 32 additions are linked to a call centre located in the Portmore area, Alorica Intervention.”- Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr. @christufton #Covid19Jamaica pic.twitter.com/5xGE9duQN7
— Andrew Holness (@AndrewHolnessJM) April 15, 2020
“It is clear that there are some operators who were not following protocols, who were not faithful in following protocols. What we will have to do as a government is now a matter of national importance. It is a matter of ensuring compliance,” said Prime Minister Holness in a televised press conference last night.
“I’ve asked the commissioner of police along with the health department to thoroughly investigate the circumstances under which this outbreak took place and to pursue charges under the disaster risk management act. We cannot take this thing lightly and consequences must fall where we can establish culpability,” added the Prime Minister.
Finance Americas has reached out to Alorica for a comment but as of publication has not received a statement. While the company’s Portmore, Jamaica contact center stayed open, Alorica’s operations on the neighboring island of Hispaniola in the Dominican Republic were shut down on March 22, according to a statement published on the company’s website.
“If you break the law and we have evidence, we will prosecute you. If you break the law, we will investigate to find evidence to prosecute you. That is how we have conducted operations under the Disaster Risk Management Act. The Act allows for penalties up to a million dollars and I believe…12 months in prison. And we are going to pursue all cases,” emphasized Holness.
According to Health & Wellness Minister Dr. Christopher Tufton, Jamaica has tested 1,290 people, with 105 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 1,185 negative indications. Alorica has temporarily closed its contact centers in Kingston and Portmore. The Portmore Alorica location employs 787 people, according to the minister.
The Jamaican government is generally assertive with regards to public health in general, resources considered. Even under normal circumstances, frequent travelers to Jamaica are familiar with strict health screenings even before reaching immigration on inbound flights to the Caribbean country. Borders are currently closed, and the tourism industry has come to a halt. Only those working in essential services are allowed on the streets in St. Catherine, and must carry identification at all times outside their place of residence. On the other hand, the rest of Jamaica outside of St. Catherine only faces a nightly curfew from 9pm to 5am but during the day, businesses are open as usual. Those who are able to have been asked to work from home.
According to Prime Minister Holness, Jamaica has almost 40,000 BPO employees and 10,000 have been moved to a telework modality.
“In short, GSAJ and JAMPRO have been managing the industry responsibly, with the collaboration of most of the players,” said Diane Edwards, president of JAMPRO, Jamaica’s investment promotion agency based in Kingston. “This is an unfortunate situation and we hope that all players will be responsible citizens and continue to implement the MOHW protocols, which are necessary to ensure the safety of our workers and our population. The government has been extremely responsible in the circumstances and is doing a great job of managing a difficult situation.”
Edwards also pointed out the following:
- Jamaica has 60 companies and 40,000 employees in this sector
- 85% of the industry is represented by the Global Services Sector of Jamaica (GSAJ). JAMPRO sits on the board of GSAJ, so has played a strong role in the association’s stewardship of the industry
- Through our combined efforts, the Jamaican government designated the industry an “essential service” so companies could keep on operating during the partial lockdown of the economy during the COVID-19 period
- The GSAJ has worked closely with our Ministry of Health and Wellness (MOHW) to establish protocols for the operation of the industry, including work from home or work from hotel rooms; in office hand and surface sanitizing, social distancing, temperature checks, special transportation, etc.
- 26% of the industry is currently working from home, but for some companies it is as much as 70-80%
- MOHW public health inspectors have been carrying out inspections of premises and Alorica’s premises passed the inspection
- As stated by the Prime Minister a thorough investigation will be done into the reason for the outbreak at Alorica