Thu | Nov 26, 2020

COVID ‘CURSE’? - Discrimination heightens as community spread looms

Published:Thursday | April 23, 2020 | 12:00 AMRomario Scott/Gleaner Writer
An onlooker takes a photograph of Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton at Tuesday's commissioning of a COBAS 6800 machine that will increase Jamaica's capacity to test for the novel coronavirus. The country has so far recorded 252 COVID-19 cases.
An onlooker takes a photograph of Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton at Tuesday's commissioning of a COBAS 6800 machine that will increase Jamaica's capacity to test for the novel coronavirus. The country has so far recorded 252 COVID-19 cases.

Police are being called on COVID-positive patients by neighbours, fuelling serious concern about heightened discrimination associated with the pandemic.

Yesterday, an individual who showed no symptoms of having COVID-19 told Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton that he was made to feel bad by community members in the wake of testing positive for the new coronavirus.

“They behave like I am the one that created the virus. Or they would say mi know ‘bout it and mi did a spread it because me want people fi dead,” the patient, whose identity was withheld, said during a virtual press conference hosted by the Ministry of Health and Wellness.

“Dem talk how me wicked and me fi dead,” he lamented.

The individual, who is in his 20s, said that some of the persons who discriminated against him were folks with whom he regularly spoke.

“I feel bad, like I did something wrong when I did nothing at all wrong. [I have spent] sleepless nights crying and praying that I don’t infect anybody … ,” he said.

Tufton yesterday lashed out at persons who had become double victims of the virus.

“We ask, Jamaicans, don’t assume those who have the virus have brought it in, created it, are somehow cursed, have somehow sinned, somehow deserve it, are bringing a plague on your community or household. None of us are immune to the virus,” Tufton stated.

“We really need to cut the hate. I really do not want to hear about any case of persons threatening people, abusing people, because they hear they have the virus,” he warned.

The COVID-19 patient told Tufton that some of his friends who have tested positive have had the police summoned to remove them from their neighbourhoods.

A nurse also told the health minister that people have been taking cover whenever they see healthcare workers entering their communities.

The nurse said that people have even given health authorities wrong addresses, fearing discrimination in their communities.

Yesterday, Tufton announced 19 additional cases, pushing the total number in the island to 252.

The ministry is awaiting details of nine cases, but of the other 10, two are male and eight female, ranging in age from 20 to 50.

Seven of the new cases are associated with the Alorica call centre, the source of a surge in cases over the past 11 days. Two are contacts of confirmed cases, and one is under investigation.

Tufton disclosed that there are now 131 confirmed COVID-19 cases related to the Portmore workplace cluster that triggered a lockdown of St Catherine parish.

Their ages range from 18 to 52, including 104 females and 27 males. They are primarily from St Catherine, Kingston, and St Andrew.

Overall, 34 cases are imported, 53 are contacts of a confirmed case, eight are local transmission with no epidemiological link, and 148 are under investigation.

One hundred and thirty-one have been identified within Alorica.

Tufton indicated that 2,125 samples have been tested. One result is pending.

Meanwhile, there are 230 persons in isolation, 71 in quarantine in government facilities, and 814 are in home quarantine in St Catherine.

A further 31 persons are in home quarantine in Portland because of contacts of confirmed cases.

A total of 28 persons have recovered and six persons have died.

National Epidemiologist Dr Karen Webster-Kerr, picking up on remarks by Chief Medical Officer Dr Jacquiline Bisasor-McKenzie that COVID-19 will sweep the island, said the results released yesterday would have indicated that transmission would have taken place two weeks ago. Webster-Kerr cautioned that the full picture of the outbreak is yet to emerge.

romario.scott@gleanerjm.com