Sat | Jan 16, 2021

Another COVID spike - No details as yet on 17 cases recorded in last 24 hours

Published:Saturday | April 18, 2020 | 12:00 AMRomario Scott/Gleaner Writer
Dr Christopher Tufton, minister of health and wellness, enters his offices in New Kingston yesterday while employees wait for testing and interviews. A member of staff at the ministry’s headquarters was tested positive for COVID-19.

The country’s ballooning number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 has reached 163, with the ministry recording an additional 20 new cases over the last 24 hours.

Senior government ministers and technocrats had been locked in a high-level meeting yesterday as they sought to plan their next move against the virus which has heightened fears among Jamaicans.

The latest numbers could well influence a decision next week to tighten restrictions of movement, this as the police prepare for further lockdown of areas.

An internal Jamaica Constabular Force communiqué, obtained by The Gleaner, has urged divisional heads to craft a divisional lockdown plan as the likelihood of the measure coming into effect has increased.

The Ministry of Health last evening did not immediately provide details surrounding 17 of the confirmed cases but said three of the cases were from St Catherine.

They are two females, ages 19 and 33, and a 42-year-old male.

“These three cases bring to 33 the number of imported cases; 39 the contacts of a confirmed case; six the number of local transmissions not epidemiologically linked; and 68 under investigation. Sixty-two of that 68 work at Alorica,” the ministry noted in a release to the media yesterday.

“Of those 62 workers, 55 are from St Catherine while four are from Kingston and St Andrew. There is one case each from Clarendon, St Thomas and Portland. Two cases are close contacts of Alorica workers and are from Clarendon,” the ministry further disclosed.

Yesterday, scores of Alorica call centre workers were tested for the novel coronavirus. The tests were conducted following the Government’s appeal for the workers to visit the call centre for testing.

Email messages were sent to the staff of Alorica on Friday instructing them to turn up at the call centre at 10 a.m.

Not everyone tested

Ministry sources admitted last night that not everyone who turned up at the call centre was tested because “enough tests kits were not present at the site”.

“So, we encouraged them to go to another testing facility or to come back as soon as they could, maybe Monday,” the ministry official who works directly with one of the teams coordinating the response said, unable to provide the precise number of persons tested.

The authorities have so far tested 1,516 samples.

Of that number 1,353 came back negative for COVID-19.

Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton has disclosed that the number of ventilators on the island are set to triple, due in part to the number of donations from private entities over the past few weeks.

“We have been getting some additional ventilators over the last few weeks and the aim, ultimately, by next month (May) is to have between 90 and 100 ventilators in the public health system,” Tufton said.

“The public health system up to COVID-19 had about 25 to 30 ventilators, so we are literally tripling the number of ventilators. They will be deployed across the country in the relevant hospitals as we prepare the COVID wards across the system, and that is to deal with more serious patients who require hospital care and [have] a high-dependency on intensive care unit care,” he added.

Among the organisations that have donated ventilators to the Ministry is the European Union, which recently donated 29 ventilators, valued at €1 million (approximately J$149 million).

In the meantime, the management for the institute of Forensic Science and Legal Medicine (IFSLM) say they will not be performing autopsy on confirmed or suspected cases of death from coronavirus. A source at the institute said it is a policy that also applied to persons who died from HIV/AIDS.

In a memo yesterday, it advised that police officers who have responded to home deaths and suspect based on medical history of the deceased to be as a result of COVID-19, to contact the health ministry immediately.

A copy was obtained by The Gleaner.

The IFSLM said the police should contact the health ministry so that contact tracing can be done immediately.

“Do not call the contracted funeral home before MOH is contacted, as this will delay the testing and investigation needed to be done by the Ministry of Health to monitor and manage the disease,” an excerpt read.