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St Mary COVID crackdown - Health teams go house to house tracing virus as quarantine hits Dover, Annotto Bay, Enfield

Health teams go house to house tracing virusas quarantine hits Dover, Annotto Bay, Enfield

Published:Friday | May 8, 2020 | 12:00 AMEdmond Campbell and Judana Murphy/Gleaner Writers
Christine Angus lives with her children and grandchildren in an eight-member household on Fort George Road, Annotto Bay, on Thursday. Annotto Bay was among three St Mary communities quarantined in the wake of a surge in coronavirus cases.
Christine Angus lives with her children and grandchildren in an eight-member household on Fort George Road, Annotto Bay, on Thursday. Annotto Bay was among three St Mary communities quarantined in the wake of a surge in coronavirus cases.

Days after The Gleaner reported a clarion call from Port Maria Mayor Richard Creary for the quarantine of St Mary communities owing to growing concerns about the spread of COVID-19 in the parish, the Government responded with the lockdown of three neighbourhoods for 14 days.

A strong contingent of Jamaica Defence Force soldiers placed Annotto Bay, Enfield, and Dover under heavy restrictions, with all three communities recording a total of 13 confirmed cases of the virus.

From as early as Sunday, a team of 60 health workers, including public-health inspectors and nurses, community-health aides, and health-education officers converged on Dover and carried out tests on 13 persons who were contacts of confirmed COVID-19 cases.

“Resulting from that, we were able to move persons out from the communities and place them in our defined quarantine isolation facility,” Dr Patrick Wheatle, regional technical director of the North East Regional Health Authority (NERHA), told a parliamentary committee yesterday discussing Jamaica’s response to COVID-19.

The health team visited 261 houses in Dover and found occupants in 256 dwellings. The district has a population of around 700 people.

Yesterday, the health team turned their attention to Enfield, conducting fever and respiratory surveillance as well as clinical assessment of residents. Personnel carried out 37 tests for the virus in Enfield.

There are 621 houses in Enfield with a population of about 2,700, NERHA data show.

Wheatle said that health personnel have not yet carried out fever surveillance and other interventions in an area known as Dump Lane in Annotto Bay, which is also under quarantine.

He said that the health team would be conducting contact tracing and testing of taxi operators in the affected communities.

The Annotto Bay Hospital in the parish has a 10-bed isolation facility, but health officials said that should there be a surge in cases, there are plans to clear a ward to accommodate additional numbers.

The St Ann’s Bay Hospital, the main regional health facility which falls under NERHA, has at least five ventilators. The hospital is approximately 67 kilometres away from Annotto Bay.

Meanwhile, the usually busy streets of Annotto Bay were yesterday almost devoid of people and vehicles as the two-week quarantine took effect.

St Mary accounts for 15 of Jamaica’s 488 confirmed cases. There have been nine fatalities nationwide and 58 recoveries.

Investigations by the Ministry of Health and Wellness have shown that there has been considerable movement of the affected persons, which has increased the risk of exposure.

On Monday, Creary called for two communities, which he did not name, to be placed under quarantine, following six asymptomatic residents being confirmed with the virus on Sunday.

Creary was concerned that several residents could contract the virus, primarily because they share close living quarters.

“This situation has become necessary because of the indiscipline of our citizens, so what is happening is that the good is suffering for the bad right now,” he said yesterday.

Residents with whom The Gleaner spoke welcomed the quarantine

“It’s quite good. We don’t want it to spread more than it has, and the residents here are people who will cooperate,” said Alexander Defreitas, a resident of Fort George Road.

Another resident, Paulette Francis, said that health officials had visited her home earlier to do temperature checks.

“Mi never really expect it suh quick, but it was just a matter of time until the community was put under quarantine. We plan to stay in, and once we get food, we will be all right,” Francis said.

The mayor added that based on the contact tracing that has been done, a number of people have been called in for testing.

Scores of residents were seated at the Enfield Health Centre awaiting testing as public-health officials went house to house conducting temperature checks.

“In the community of Enfield, I was told that there are about 30 to 40 persons there doing temperature checks. The health centre is open, doing checks for the coronavirus,” Creary said.

The mayor said that the Ministry of Labour and Social Security is expected to deliver care packages to the affected residents.

Having toured the communities, St Mary South East Member of Parliament Dr Norman Dunn said that there was a great sense of cooperation, but the main concern of residents was about accessing basic food.

The health ministry first imposed a community quarantine in the Bull Bay communities of Seven Miles and Eight Miles in St Andrew and then Corn Piece Settlement in Clarendon as part of COVID-19 containment measures. Those restrictions were eventually lifted.

The St Mary quarantine is set to expire on Thursday, May 21, at 6 a.m.