Fri | Dec 4, 2020

Guy, Tufton in Russian roulette over virus deaths

Published:Wednesday | May 20, 2020 | 12:34 AMEdmond Campbell/Senior Staff Reporter
Minister of Health and Wellness Dr Christopher Tufton (left) in dialogue with Senior Medical Officer Dr Glenton Stratchan at the Annotto Bay Hospital in St Mary on Saturday, May 9. Opposition Spokesman Dr Morais Guy has taken the ministry's COVID-19 testing regime to task.
Minister of Health and Wellness Dr Christopher Tufton (left) in dialogue with Senior Medical Officer Dr Glenton Stratchan at the Annotto Bay Hospital in St Mary on Saturday, May 9. Opposition Spokesman Dr Morais Guy has taken the ministry's COVID-19 testing regime to task.

OPPOSITION SPOKESMAN on Health Dr Morais Guy is warning the Holness administration not to be lulled into a false sense of security, like the Russians, who appeared to be managing COVID-19 well until they discovered thousands of related deaths that were not captured by official statistics.

According to Guy, after a medical investigator assessed the number of deaths that had occurred within a four-month period in Russia, it was found that thousands more had died this year when compared with the similar period in 2019.

He said that this suggested that people were dying as a consequence of COVID-19.

While commending Jamaican healthcare workers for their arduous efforts at battling the highly contagious virus, which has taken the lives of nine Jamaicans, Guy urged his government counterpart to check with the Registrar General’s Department (RGD) to ascertain the number of deaths this year when compared with 2019.

Responding, Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton said: “I am told that there is no discernible difference in terms of deaths. I don’t have the specific numbers for the first three months of this year versus the first three months of last year.”

Tufton pressed Guy to avoid equating the Russian paradigm with the Jamaican realities on the ground.

“It doesn’t apply to us,” Tufton said.

However, Guy said he would not “resile from saying what I am saying until I have the actual figures”.

He urged the minister to get the numbers from the RGD.

The Gleaner obtained preliminary and provisional figures from the RGD of the number of deaths for the first three months of 2019 and 2020.

Preliminary data for the period January to March 2019 and provisional data for the similar timeline in 2020 show a difference of 302 deaths in March.

Preliminary deaths for March 2019 were 1,684 while the provisional number for March 2020 was 1,382. The first case of COVID-19 was detected in Jamaica on March 10.

However, there was very little difference in the number of people who died in February 2020 and March this year. The RGD recorded 1,658 deaths in February 2019.

edmond.campbell@gleanerjm.com

2019 Deaths (Preliminary)

Jan – 1,719 Feb – 1,658 Mar – 1,684

2020 Deaths (Provisional)

Jan – 1,784 Feb – 1,413 Mar – 1,382