Government officials on Saturday morning provided an update on the new public health protocol which is to take effect next week.
Premier Joseph E. Farrell and Minister of Health Charles T. Kirnon appeared on The Cultural Show on ZJB Radio Montserrat to announce the new protocols to take effect on Tuesday, February 1 at 5AM when the current order expires.
Farrell said the January outbreak was the highest number of cases seen on island with 116. Since the start of the pandemic, the island has had a total of 163 active COVID-19 cases as of Saturday, January 29 at noon. Currently there are six active cases.
The premier the number of new cases are on the decline which has led to Cabinet reviewing and lifting some of the restrictions which had been put in place to stop community spread. One of the new measures being considered is regular, mandatory random testing for all frontline workers including health care, police offices, and staff who have direct contact with the public. Consideration is also being given to randomly testing children at school as well, added the Minister of Health.
Minister Kirnon said as of Tuesday, February 1:
- The curfew will be removed.
- Government workers are expected to report to work as normal.
- Schools are to be reopened for face-to-face instruction. Teachers are expected to turn out on Monday, January 31 to prepare for this.
- Mass gatherings will be increased from 15 to 25 people.
The new order will be in effect until February 14, This is to allow for continued monitoring to ensure that there are no significant increases in active cases.
Schools, churches, the Cultural Centre and port of entries are exempted from the 25 person limit. The wearing of masks, social distancing and hand sanitisation are still mandatory for public places.
The health minister revealed that most of the positive cases of the virus were of the Delta variant. Omicron was to a lesser degree.
Premier Farrell noted that surges such as these may well become the norm going forward and government measures are not the best way to deal with them. Personal responsibility for health as well as reporting protocol breaches was necessary. “Each of us must take control of our health,” he stated.
He reiterated his belief that vaccination is key to protecting the population.
Both officials also said that people who apply to host events who flout the rules around COVID-19 protocols must refrain from this practice. They should ensure that masks are being worn, there are hand sanitsation facilities for guests. Not adhering can mean the police shutting down the event.
When asked about the upcoming St. Patrick’s Festival and the possibility of another outbreak, the health minister said the festival was approved with their guidance and that the events will primarily be virtual. There will be limited in-person events.
Residents are still encouraged to register to be vaccinated or to receive a booster shot by calling the St. John’s Health Centre at 491-5218.