THE local public health system has again been thrown into high alert as hundreds of individuals, mostly Jamaicans, arrive in the island from Britain where a new strain of the novel coronavirus — described as “out of control” by officials there — has forced London and other areas into strict lockdown.

The Ministry of Health and Wellness yesterday issued a two-week travel ban on flights coming to Jamaica from England, but said three flights, one of which was already en route, would be allowed to land, and passengers placed in State quarantine for two days and tested for COVID-19. The ban, which took immediate effect, ends on January 4.

Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton told the Jamaica Observer shortly after the ban was announced that the island has the capacity to house the roughly 300 passengers who were expected to arrive here on the first flight yesterday.

The remaining two flights, expected to arrive today, could bring up to 600 additional passengers, he said.

“For the numbers for today [yesterday], we think we do [have capacity]. We are going to have to look at the numbers for tomorrow [today]. We are still working on that,” Tufton said.

Dr Tufton explained that the coronavirus strain that has sent British authorities scrambling requires polymerase chain reaction testing.

“The nature of this virus does not allow antigen testing. The idea is to test all persons and then hold [them] for 48 hours, and then when they get their results, to send them home, but still track them. We expect most of them to be Jamaicans,” the health minister said.

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