Sun | Dec 5, 2021

Doctors back COVID lockdown extension

Published:Tuesday | April 13, 2021 | 12:20 AM
An eerily empty St James Street in Montego Bay during the coronavirus lockdown on Sunday, March 28.
An eerily empty St James Street in Montego Bay during the coronavirus lockdown on Sunday, March 28.

The Andrew Holness administration is expected to announce today whether it will extend the weekend lockdowns and the halting of face-to-face learning for students preparing for exit exams as COVID-19 hospitalisations and infections soar.

Jamaicans were forced to remain indoors over the last three weekends spanning March 27 to April 11 as the Government introduced tighter restrictions to slow the rapid spread of the virus.

On April 6, the COVID-19 positivity rate moved up to 36.1 per cent, the highest so far for the month.

The COVID-19 positivity rate up to April 11 averaged about 29 per cent when compared with the overall average of 29.2 per cent for March. This is significantly higher than the average 21 per cent positivity recorded for February.

President of the Medical Association of Jamaica (MAJ), Dr Andrew Manning, is lobbying for another round of weekend lockdowns.

“You won’t see the effects of the lockdowns for a couple of weeks, and that is because of the incubation period of the virus,” Manning said on Monday.

There were 405 confirmed hospitalisations up to Sunday, with infections topping 42,760 and deaths standing at 676.

Manning indicated that there were signs that recent lockdown measures might be impacting the positivity rate.

“We think we need to continue with the lockdown certainly until we ease the pressure on the hospitals,” he told The Gleaner.

Manning, who heads the group of consultant physicians, said he would not recommend that in-person instruction resume for students sitting external exams.

Manning argued that it was critical that the spread of the virus be slowed in communities.

“There are definitely some experts that would say that if the spread within the community is high, you will have to consider carefully resumption of face-to-face classes.”

The MAJ president indicated that a resumption of face-to-face classes would bring into focus the safety of teachers, noting that the younger age group seemed to spread the virus but did not have a high incidence of contracting moderate or severe forms of the disease.

Pandemic growing

On Monday, a stark warning came from the World Health Organization’s (WHO) technical lead for COVID-19, Maria Van Kerkhove, that the coronavirus pandemic was growing exponentially.

The WHO said that over the last week, more than 4.4 million new COVID-19 cases were recorded globally.

Kerkhove declared that “we are in a critical point of the pandemic” even as some countries ease restrictions.

“This is not the situation we want to be in 16 months into a pandemic where we have proven control measures. It is the time right now where everyone has to take stock and have a reality check of what we need to be doing,” said Kerkhove, who is also an infectious disease epidemiologist.