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Health sector could collapse if COVID breaches continue, warns Stair

Published:Tuesday | December 29, 2020 | 12:12 AMBryan Miller/Gleaner Writer

Western Bureau:

Unconvinced that the local health sector can withstand a dramatic surge in COVID-19 cases, medical practitioner and Hanover Custos Dr David Stair is urging stricter adherence to protocols to mitigate the spread of the virus in the parish.

“The sad truth is that our health service is not robust enough to take on the massive levels of sick people that can be foisted on us if we do not maintain the protocols, so we just have to try and slow the spread. Hopefully, the vaccines will arrive and they will turn out to be helpful and will actually protect us, because we all know that new strains are developing ever so often,” Stair told The Gleaner in an interview.

“So, we have to be careful because if we are not, we will pay the consequences,” added Stair.

In addition to social distancing, mask wearing and frequent washing or sanitising of hands, Stair also recommended healthy eating habits and frequent exercise as Jamaicans guard themselves against the coronavirus.

Up to Sunday, Jamaica had recorded 12,732 cases of COVID-19 with 298 confirmed deaths. Another 28 fatalities are under investigation, while a further 48 were ruled coincidental. At least 10,161 patients have recovered while 2,115 active cases remain, the health ministry said.

While Hanover has recorded 304 cases of the coronavirus – the least in terms of parishes – with a small population size, its case ratio remains high.

Stair suggested that tourism may have factored in the recent surge of cases in the parish, although he did not have data to prove it.

“We are in the [tourism] corridor, where a lot of persons are coming in, and from my information, in some of the hotels, it is only the staff who may be wearing protective gear; and remember, these people have to go home to their families,” he said.

Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett has attributed recent surges in virus cases to locals disregarding COVID-19 protocols, stressing that no outbreaks have been recorded in the sector.

Turning to the new variants of the virus discovered in different parts of the world, including the United Kingdom, over the past week, the doctor said that a new variant could be in the island as “people were coming in from the United Kingdom long before the ban was implemented. It probably passed through America and is upon us, so we just have to be careful,” said Stair.

While countries such as the United Kingdom routinely carry out tests on the virus to observe mutations, the United States does not conduct such studies and could be home to the various strains causing alarm across the globe as some countries begin to roll out vaccination programmes.

At least 20 of the more that 300 persons from the UK who arrived in the island as a travel ban came into effect last Tuesday had tested positive for COVID-19, although it was not immediately clear whether any had the new variant.

The Hanover custos expressed concern that Jamaica would not be getting any COVID-19 vaccines until about April 2021 and is worried that the quantities the country will receive will not be enough to produce any level of herd immunity.

“All things being well, we just have to put up with this inconvenience for maybe another year or two until we can get things under control. So please, people, just put up with the little discomfort for a while longer, do not allow this thing to just take control and eliminate us,” he pleaded.