Madam Speaker, 2020 has been an extraordinary year for Jamaica, and the world. The COVID-19 virus – and its impact globally and on Jamaica – has been life changing. This is a once in a 100 year experience. There was no playbook prescribing a response; we had to adjust and learn as we went along.
This public health threat tested our strength as a people, our leadership as a government, our resilience, courage, and public health expertise and infrastructure. We all witnessed with disbelief, shutdowns and restrictions on communities, workplaces, schools, critical gatherings such as worshipping at church, celebrations for weddings and birthdays, and even mourning our loved ones at funerals.
Madam Speaker, life changed dramatically for us on Tuesday, March 10, 2020, when the first case of the Coronavirus was announced here in Jamaica at approximately 12:15 in the afternoon. Thirteen months on, and the statistics continue to mount – over 800 deaths and close to 50,000 infections as at May 15, 2021.
Madam Speaker, please permit me to place on record my sincere condolences to the victims of the COVID-19 virus and their family members and friends. I am sure the country mourns with them and our prayers continue to be for their strength and guidance.
Permit me also, Madam Speaker, to ask this honourable house to thank and applaud the approximately 37,000 healthcare workers (both private and public), and our local, bi-lateral, and international partners for the hard work and sacrifice they have made to protect all of us from this, now-not-so novel Coronavirus. In “appreciation and gratitude for the unwavering dedication in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic by health care workers,” 2021 has been designated the International Year of
Health & Care Workers by the World Health Organization (WHO). Here, in Jamaica, we embrace and celebrate our healthcare heroes!
Allow me also Madam Speaker, to say a big thank you to the Jamaican people. In the midst of fear and uncertainty, they remained steadfast in their support of the Government’s efforts, which resulted in the spread of the virus being less than initially predicted.