Jamaica has begun imposing weekend curfews, as the Caribbean country does everything it can to contain the new cases of Covid-19 in a worrying turn for the country’s BPO industry.
Around 40,000 people have contracted the virus in the country since March 2020, with fatalities exceeding 600.
Rates of Covid-19 infection had been kept low for most of last 12 months, with a rise of less than 100 cases a day between October of last year and the beginning of February 2021. However, in late February and March, cases began to climb at an alarming rate with over 500 new infections reported every day until mid-March. The island’s healthcare sector is feeling the pressure, and though new cases have dropped off during April, the government is acting to halt the spread.
Social distancing measures are angering local residents, with many of them venting their displeasure on social media.
Businesses, meanwhile, are abiding by the new curfew orders. Streets in Kingston and Montego Bay were completely deserted last weekend, according to local newspapers. “The busiest business areas surrounding Sam Sharpe Square in the second city and Kingston’s Half-Way-Tree hub resembled the kind of ghost town a majority of the population had never seen or imagined,” reported Caribbean Life News.
Critics of the curfew argue that sporadic lockdowns will not yield any results and that the virus will continue to spread. They say “complete lockdowns” can contain the virus. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Andrew Holness has defended his measure, vowing to punish those who don’t wear masks and violate lockdown measures.
The new curfews come just weeks after Jamaica looked set to become among the first countries in the region, and world, to achieve herd immunity. The population, at less than 3 million people, previously reported it already had 1.5 million vaccination doses with further doses already assured.
The booming BPO industry is vital to the economic wellbeing of the country, employing over 36,000 among an employment pool of 1.5 million.
The national government identified the BPO industry as vital and has moved industry workers, along with health workers, police officers and those aged over 60, to the front of the vaccination queue.
The BPO industry remains a pillar of the country’s economy with many major companies having a presence there. Only last month, Sequium Asset Solutions launched a new center named Segoso Caribbean. However, not all BPOs have been able to be fully compliant with Covid-19 work restrictions, Jamaican newspaper The Gleaner reports. According to its article, acting Chief Public Health Inspector for the St. James district, Roshaye McFarlane, said that around 68% of the 37 BPOs it monitored were fully compliant with virus measures. Enforcing the wearing of masks and upholding strict cleaning measures were the main areas of concern, said McFarlane.
With tourism numbers not expected to see any dramatic rise soon, the number of rising cases will be a cause of economic as well as health concerns. The island’ BPO industry will have to sit tight and see how the pandemic’s next phase evolves.