Risk still of 1.5m COVID-19 cases
Jamaica could still be on course to register hundreds of thousands more coronavirus infections in line with initial modelling by government authorities that projected a potential spread to more than half the population. That could be as many as 1.5 million people.
Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton has, however, sought to temper alarm at the mounting infections, with multiple one-day records over the past two weeks. Tufton warned that the country was in a new phase of the virus, which, as at Monday, had killed 21 people and infected 2,459.
“If you cast your mind back to when we had the first media disaster risk management committee meeting, the modelling that was presented suggested that more than 1.5 million Jamaicans would get COVID,” Tufton told The Gleaner on Monday.
“It is not far off, but what it really is showing is that once you open up, your risks are going to increase and more persons are going to get it.”
The Government has come under criticism from the Opposition and civil-society activists who have argued that the Holness administration was reckless in calling the September 3 general election as a second wave of the virus was emerging. The election was not due until March 2021.
But Tufton defended the Government’s handling of the pandemic, saying the meteoric rise in cases in August should not be exclusively linked to election-related activities. He said that the triggers for the COVID-19 spike were the reopening of international travel and quarantine breaches.
The jump in COVID-19 cases under investigation also represents a growing deficit in the State’s capacity to rein in the virus and track the source of spread. But the health minister has denied that contact tracing has collapsed despite 943 cases being under investigation.
“The more contact tracing is done, the more it puts a strain on the limited staff we have,” said Tufton. “It is happening, but isn’t always projected in the public domain until you have a community that has to be quarantined.”