Prime Minister Andrew Holness yesterday gave further indication that the Government is pushing ahead with returning normality to the economy as the country recorded a second day of no new COVID-19 cases since the outbreak started in early March.
At a virtual press conference from Jamaica House, he said the work-from-home order will not be renewed when it expires on May 31. As such, employees who are now working from home will be physically able to return to their work places on June 1.
However, he said employers must ensure that all safety protocols are in place.
“All the normal infection and safety protocols would need to be in place, the various protocols for factories, workplaces, banking halls, etc are being developed in conjunction with the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ),” he said.
“We are working assiduously to make sure that every move that we make is in the best interest of the Jamaican people.”– Prime Minister Andrew Holness
At the same time, he indicated that, in spite of the discontinuation of the work-from-home order, the island-wide curfew will remain in place.
“We don’t see it possible at this time in the epidemic to lift the curfew hours, but we are making the adjustment so that you can get the maximum productive hours out of the day. Even though we are saying to people go back to work, the curfew orders will be appropriate to normal work hours,” he said, noting that the category of essential workers who are exempt will also remain in place.
People in the at-risk categories, such as those 65 years and older, or people with comorbidities remain exempt from returning to work.
The prime minister said the country is now being put on notice for return to work, and that in the meantime, the PSOJ — working through the Economic Recovery Committee and the Government — will finalise the new workplace protocols.
He said Cabinet had made its decision based on the country’s COIVD-19 status, which indicates a flattening of the infection curve, with 520 confirmed cases to date, 131 recoveries and nine deaths.
“From a public health standpoint, in terms of where we are with in the progression of this pandemic, we are now at the point where we can say to our Jamaican workforce that you should return to work… this is a further signal that the Government is encouraging the smart return to full productive capacity. This is a further signal that Jamaica has to learn to live with COVID-19. We are working assiduously to make sure that every move that we make is in the best interest of the Jamaican people” he stated.
Holness emphasised that the Government must move swiftly to return people to work, and signal when the borders can be reopened to facilitate the resumption of major industries such as tourism. “Our ability to be successful from a public health standpoint relies on our ability to keep our economy afloat,” he stressed.
According to the prime minister, the lifting of the work-from-home order will be accompanied by protocols which will cover considerations such as children who have to be cared for at home until the reopening of schools, which is set for September.
“We are entering a new paradigm with the workplace which we will now have to rely more heavily on the flexi-work legislation,” he said. “We have now gotten a taste that it is possible to utilise virtual meetings and virtual spaces, so we have to incorporate all of this. With the help of the private sector and other experts we will come up with a comprehensive set of protocols that will facilitate those parents who would have to have their children at home while school is out.”