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News for Week of February 13, 2022
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NIDS cards are coming in another few months
The Government is to begin issuing national identification cards this year, following the passage of the associated regulations for the National Identification and Registration Act.
“With the passage of the National Identification and Registration Act, the implementation of the National Identification System (NIDS) is now fully under way. This is a critical milestone in our digital transformation,” said Governor-General Sir Patrick Allen while delivering the Throne Speech outlining the Government’s plans for financial year that starts April 1.
He noted that the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has highlighted the critical importance of establishing the unique identity of each citizen to provide efficient, timely and targeted services by the Government.
Jamaica’s national identification system will provide a comprehensive and secure structure to enable the collection and storage of identity information.
This secure voluntary tool can also verify an individual’s identity, facilitate the electronic signing of documents, and securely access a range of government services online.
More houses for rural parishes, says info minister
The Housing Agency of Jamaica Limited (HAJ) is spending $1.9 billion on the construction of additional houses and to provide serviced lots at the Luana Gardens, Phase 3 housing development in St. Elizabeth.
This follows Cabinet’s approval for the award of a contract by the HAJ to Marshall Construction Company Limited, to construct 200 two-bedroom and one-bedroom detached units and 50 serviced lots.
Minister without Portfolio in the Office of the Prime Minister with responsibility for information Robert Morgan said that Cabinet also approved the award of a $1.7-billion contract for the construction of 142 units in Reid’s Pen, St. Catherine. The HAJ has awarded this contract to NF Barnes Construction and Equipment Company Limited.
Additionally, Cabinet gave its approval for the HAJ to remove the 100 one-bedroom starter housing units from the Shooters Hill Project (renamed Hellshire View) and have them replaced with two-bedroom, one-bathroom units.
Massive upgrades for health facilities on agenda
A multibillion-dollar upgrade of the health sector is on the agenda as the Government budgeted a big chunk to ensure that Jamaicans are served in state-of-the-art facilities.
Governor-General Sir Patrick Allen highlighted this while delivering the Throne Speech outlining the Government’s plans for the new financial year that starts April 1.
“The plan, which is being jointly funded by the European Union and the Inter-American Development Bank, will see upgrades to 13 health facilities, comprising three hospitals and 10 health centres. The Spanish Town, St. Ann’s Bay and May Pen Hospitals will be upgraded,” he said.
Health centres to be upgraded under the project are Greater Portmore, St. Jago Park, Old Harbour, St. Ann’s Bay, Ocho Rios, Brown’s Town, May Pen East, May Pen West, Mocho, and the Chapelton Community Hospital.
The Governor-General said that in addition to those facilities, upgrading of the building and equipment at the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI) is in the design phase, and buildout work is continuing at Cornwall Regional Hospital and the Western Children and Adolescent Hospital.
He said as part of efforts to boost healthcare delivery, especially to mitigate the Coronavirus (COVID-19), several field hospitals were established, which increased the bed complement and capacity of the health system to provide care for affected persons.
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Social pension list to grow by 13,000 in 12 months
Another 13,000 persons are being targeted to receive benefits under the Social Pension Programme, the Jamaican government has said. About 7,000 persons have registered, so far, under the initiative.
The new applicants will be added to the initiative during the new financial year that starts on April 1.
The $800-million Social Pension Programme, which was launched in July 2021, provides a guaranteed income for vulnerable persons 75 years and older.
Seniors targeted are those not currently in receipt of a pension, disability benefit or other retirement benefits, cash grants from the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH) or Poor Relief Programme, and who do not reside in a government institutional care facility.
The Government noted that $2 billion was spent to provide additional COVID-19 relief grants to 195,000 families across Jamaica.
Super COVID-19 vaccine in the works, says PAHO
Assistant Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Dr. Jarbas Barbosa da Silva Jr., says work is under way by researchers to develop a universal or ‘super’ coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine.
It is anticipated that the proposed vaccine will be very effective against all COVID-19 variants and provide permanent protection against the disease.
“We have several candidates [undertaking this research], but they are still in the preclinical… lab-testing phase. We will eventually have some clinical trials,” Dr. Barbosa said.
Reports emerging out of the United States last week indicated that the military has been undertaking the development of a ‘pan-coronavirus vaccine’ – the spike ferritin nanoparticle (SpFN) – for which phase-one human trials have been completed.
The report indicated that the vaccine is being tested against all COVID-19 variants, including Omicron.
Dr. Barbosa emphasized that while super vaccine development is awaited, “let us use [those] that we have”.
“The vaccines that are available now are [also] ‘super vaccines.’ They have saved and are still saving millions of lives all over the world. They can reduce serious cases [and] deaths,” he added.
The Assistant Director said this has been proven by the data provided by countries across the region of the Americas and globally, “so let us continue to use [those vaccines]”.