Wed | Jan 27, 2021

Virus cases hit 15 as Tufton defends COVID cruise docking - Health minister insists that medical team carried out due diligence in granting landing privileges

Published:Monday | March 16, 2020 | 12:00 AMNickoy Wilson/Staff Reporter -
The Costa Luminosa was forced to await clearance for several hours before being allowed to dock at the Ocho Rios pier on February 28.


With Jamaica's novel coronavirus infections now at 15, concerns are being raised as to whether local authorities were prudent in granting cruise ship Costa Luminosa landing privileges on February 28.

This, after a 68-year-old Italian man who was a passenger on the ship at the time died in the Cayman Islands on Saturday from complications from COVID-19.

“The cause of death was bilateral interstitial pneumonia with acute respiratory distress syndrome – coronavirus disease-19,” Health City Cayman Islands Clinical Director Dr Binoy Chattuparambil told the Cayman Compass.

He was taken to the East End facility off the cruise ship Costa Luminosa for urgent cardiac care a day after that the ship docked at the Jamaican port of Ocho Rios, St Ann.

But Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton said yesterday evening that the medical team carried out due diligence when it allowed passengers and crew to disembark here while barring Italians, which would have included the now deceased man, from exiting the vessel.

“To the extent that the information indicated that there were persons who had issues, the reports that were requested, which included the medical log of passengers on this vessel … , determined the landing rights that were given to the vessel. And persons who disembarked were, based on those medical logs and other information, not persons who were in any way symptomatic,” Tufton said yesterday in an interview with The Gleaner.

“So while there are always margins of error, which is why we’ve over time restricted movement significantly, I’m comfortable that the medical team did take the appropriate action to minimise the possibility of any transmission based on the medical logs and other information that they had requested and got.”

Giving an update on COVID-19 in Jamaica, Tufton said that just over a dozen individuals were quarantined in relation to the employee of the United States Embassy in Kingston who was declared Jamaica’s second imported case of the novel coronavirus. However, that number of quarantined persons has since expanded.

“Initially, we had quarantined 15 persons because those were considered the primary initial source of contact, based on the discussion with the individual who was affected. But then beyond that, you have to filter out more. So it’s hard to give a definitive number, but it would be multiple,” he said.

The health and wellness minister also said that some individuals who arrived on the flight from the United Kingdom with the second patient on March 7 have self-identified.

Tufton also sought to clarify that the ministry does not report preliminary results for those who have been tested, dispelling claims that the ministry was withholding test results from the public.

“We respond to the period when we get the test. There is a lag time between the lab doing the test, the preliminary test, then the confirmatory test. We do not report preliminary tests. Somehow, news gets outs when the preliminary tests are out. Sometimes persons assume that the preliminary test is the confirmatory test,” he said.

“We cannot, in public health, release preliminary tests. There are gaps, in terms of hours sometimes, between the preliminary and confirmatory [tests]. As soon as we get the results, it takes an hour or so because we have to consult, discuss, develop the release, but we are very deliberate to release when we get it,” he added.

Not counting preliminary positives, Jamaica confirmed two more cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, bringing the total number of cases to 10.

According to a release from the health ministry yesterday, some 19 tests were conducted during a 24-hour period. Seventeen of those came back negative.

Last Tuesday, Jamaica confirmed its first imported case of COVID-19, the second coming a day later. Both cases were related to persons who had travelled to the island from the United Kingdom, on separate flights, in early March.

Six more cases of COVID-19 were then confirmed shortly after midnight Thursday, which included the father of the first patient.

The Gleaner understands that the father of Patient 0 –­ the first patient ­– is a shopkeeper in the district of Goshen in Mocho, Clarendon, who interacted with residents up to the point when he was identified and quarantined.

Sources have revealed that six persons have been taken from the community and tested and are now awaiting results.

However, in an apparent walking back of his policy pronouncement, Tufton announced shortly after midnight Sunday that there were five more preliminary positives. The health ministry said that two of the cases are linked to a patient who travelled from the United Kingdom. The third patient has a travel history to Trinidad and Tobago and was on the same flight as a confirmed case. The fourth patient is an American child who travelled through Miami, while the fifth case is a Kingston patient with no travel history, but who recently hosted visitors from the United Kingdom. In the meantime, the health ministry said that two other tests returned negative results. They involve a patient in isolation at Mandeville Regional Hospital and another at St Ann's Bay Hospital. The ministry said that it was awaiting the confirmatory results of these tests. Since December’s discovery of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in Wuhan, China, more than 160,000 people have been infected in 162 countries, and 6,000-plus have died from complications.