Special Committee of Parliament to oversee response to COVID-19

March 24, 2020
Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness (left), listens as Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton, provides an update on Jamaica’s Coronavirus (COVID-19) response, during a press conference at Jamaica House on Monday (March 23).

An eight-member Special Select Committee of Parliament has been appointed to oversee Jamaica’s response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

The Committee is chaired by Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr Christopher Tufton, and includes Attorney-General Marlene Malahoo Forte; Juliet Holness; Dr Norman Dunn; Marissa Dalrymple-Philibert; Dr Morais Guy; Mark Golding; and Dr Angela Brown Burke.     

Dr Tufton made the announcement during a press conference hosted by Prime Minister Andrew Holness, at Jamaica House on Monday, March 23, to provide a COVID-19 update.

He said that the Committee, which is slated to have its first meeting at Gordon House on Tuesday, March 24,will discuss matters aimed at ensuring that the country’s business continues, rules of engagement in relation to safeguarding parliamentarians, among other matters.

Holness advised that the Standing Orders of Parliament have been amended to allow for the Committee to meet away from Gordon House.  

“So your first meeting will be in Parliament,but the other meetings will happen remotely,” he informed.

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister said that senior cabinet ministers and parliamentarians will be exempt from newly announced stipulations that public servants, 65 years and older, should remain at home for 14 days, effective Wednesday, March 25, as part of COVID-19 safeguards.

He said that in light of the prevailing circumstances, “the leadership of the country must be intact and must be present, functional and operational”, adding “we could not interfere with the democratic process”.

Holness said Cabinet has decided to establish a quorum and “those who don’t have to be in Cabinet will be able to participate remotely”.

“We recently transitioned to a digital Cabinet. Everybody was set up on a particular remote work space… so it is possible to have the quorum, and those who are at home can, via the Internet, connect and participate and have their participation recorded,” he informed.

In relation to Parliamentarians, Holness said “it is the Constitutional duty of the elected representative to be in Parliament”.

He pointed out, however, that given the community transmission phase into which Jamaica’s COVID-19 outbreak is about to enter,and the likelihood of a higher number of persons contracting the virus, “we have to take great precautions”.

“So the Member of Parliament has a duty to both protect themselves from people, who may have the virus or don’t unduly expose themselves to the virus… and if they themselves have it, they shouldn’t expose [themselves] to members of the public,” the Prime Minister said.

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