Mon | Aug 2, 2021

COVID reverse

PM says retightening of safety protocols likely with uptick in cases

Published:Thursday | July 22, 2021 | 12:12 AMEdmond Campbell/Senior Staff Reporter
Patrons at the popular I Love Soca event held at Stadium East, St Andrew, on July 14. The party heralded the reopening of the entertainment sector since the lockdown in 2020.
Patrons at the popular I Love Soca event held at Stadium East, St Andrew, on July 14. The party heralded the reopening of the entertainment sector since the lockdown in 2020.

With an uptick in the transmission of COVID-19 cases, Prime Minister Andrew Holness says it is likely that a tightening of measures will be announced next Tuesday to reverse the steady increase in persons contracting the virus.

And as the Government awaits the results of more recent tests done to determine whether the dreaded Delta variant has landed on Jamaica's shores, opposition spokesman on health and medical practitioner Dr Morais Guy is of the view that the highly transmissible strain of COVID-19 is already in Jamaica.

“I am of the view it (Delta) is here. I am of the view, too, that it is the reason why we are having the death rates that we are having in terms of the weekly mortality rates,” he said.

He urged the Government to speed up the acquisition of the genome sequencing machine that has the capacity to test for various COVID-19 strains.

Responding to the issue, the prime minister said that the acquisition of the genome sequencing machine was still at the procurement stage. However, he said that the process was well advanced and the machines should arrive in the country in a couple of weeks.

Holness conceded a point made by Guy that more random tests should be done to verify the ministry's routine sampling.

However, the prime minister revealed that many Jamaicans were reluctant to be randomly sampled. “So the Ministry of Health going out to do their surveillance in communities may not get the take-up of persons to actually increase random sampling.”

The prime minister reminded the country that the Delta variant was now the dominant strain globally.

“While the samples we have sent off for genome sequencing have not indicated the presence of the variant in Jamaica thus far, it would be wishful thinking for us to believe that it would not make its way to Jamaica, if it is not already here,” he said.

The head of government noted that the increase in the number of COVID-19 cases may be indicative of the early stages of a third wave of the disease.

“The only way for us to prevent this is for Jamaicans to take personal responsibility, to exercise extreme caution and diligence in observing the protocols, wearing masks properly ... covering nose and mouth,” he said.

He also reminded Jamaicans to maintain proper hygiene by washing and sanitising hands as well as to observe the physical-distancing protocol.

The prime minister also urged everyone who is eligible to take the vaccines to do so, noting that they have proven to be effective in preventing hospitalisation and deaths.

Asked whether the country had enough oxygen to handle a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases, Holness said that the last report he received from the health ministry was that it had increased its capacity for oxygen.

“Based on the last report on the number of beds that they have, they should have sufficient oxygen in store and capabilities to provide for the number of beds, which is now 700.”

In June, 1,572 COVID-19 cases were recorded. Up to July 21, the number of cases identified was 1,238.

The average number of COVID-19 cases per day in June was 52, with the number increasing to 62 per day in July.

On Tuesday, the country recorded 122 cases, the single highest number in more than eight weeks since May 2021.

Jamaica's average positivity rate for week 28 of 2021 was 8.8 per cent and for week 29, the positivity rate has moved up to 9.9 per cent. This puts the country in the high transmission rate category, said Holness.