Sat | Jun 6, 2020

COVID hotspots - 40 communities south of Half-Way Tree at high risk for transmission

Published:Wednesday | April 8, 2020 | 12:20 AMEdmond Campbell/Senior Parliamentary Reporter
Parris Lyew Ayee Jr
Parris Lyew Ayee Jr

A risk analysis study commissioned by the Cabinet and spearheaded by Dr Parris Lyew-Ayee Jr, director of the Mona Geoinformatics Institute at The University of the West Indies, has found that more than 40 communities in the Kingston Metropolitan Area (KMA) are the most at-risk areas in Jamaica to COVID-19 transmission.

The team, which also includes Howard Mitchell and Gordon Shirley, carried out the research and made a presentation to Cabinet on vulnerable individuals and communities across the country.

Addressing a special select committee of Parliament reviewing developments relating to COVID-19, Lyew-Ayee said that with the exception of Whitehall, the areas registering the highest scores in terms of at-risk communities were below Half-Way Tree.

Port Antonio, Spanish Town, and Montego Bay also featured as the major regions, outside of the KMA, in the top 50 hotspots islandwide.

When the committee met last week, St Andrew South Member of Parliament Mark Golding queried what plans, if any, the Government had in dealing with the impact of COVID-19 on densely populated urban centres.

A review of the pattern of COVID-19 cases across the country reveals six unique hotspots that are, for the most part, isolated. The study showed warm spots in Westmoreland and St Elizabeth.

The study indicates that the distribution of vulnerable groups, such as people with underlying health conditions, 75 years and older, and those with very little disposable income, is uneven across the country.

TIGHT FIT

Lyew-Ayee Jr observed that an urban environment creates certain challenges “to realistically and practically implementing or practising social distancing, ­quarantining, and curfews”.

The research pulled data from the National Health Fund (NHF), which indicated that a greater concentration of persons with underlying conditions such as, diabetes and hypertension, live in urban areas that are densely populated.

The areas with high population densities would increase the likelihood of the spread of the disease.

“When we begin to combine urban areas and the characteristics of urban areas with population density, looking at poverty conditions, old-age concentrations, looking at diabetics and hypertensives, we begin to see very interesting patterns,” he said.

He noted that Norbrook, in St Andrew, has relatively higher proportions of older people with diabetes and hypertension, but have low population densities and poverty levels.

Yesterday, the number of persons who test positive for COVID-19 increased to 63, with another four confirmed cases.