Tue | Sep 28, 2021

COVID-19 pressure point

Potential third wave forcing Government to rethink approach; plans to vaccinate 900,000 Jamaicans by end of September

Published:Friday | July 23, 2021 | 12:11 AMJanet Silvera/Senior Gleaner Writer
Over 300,000 Jamaicans have received at least the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, with some 179,000 fully vaccinated from that lot.

WESTERN BUREAU:

Hospital bed occupancy is at pressure-point, positivity rate in transmission has increased significantly, and vaccination is too low for Jamaica to effectively fight a third wave of COVID-19.

The raw truth has forced Minister of Health and Wellness Dr Christopher Tufton to admit that the country was moving in the wrong direction.

An alarming 13.8 per cent in the positivity rate and a case fatality of 2.3 per cent are enough confirmation that the Government may need to go back to stringent measures to contain the spread of the virus, he hinted.

It seems as if the minister was not blaming the public alone as he admitted that the Government may have erred with recent actions taken to relax the protocols and was willing to go back to the drawing board because there was cause for concern.

Ideally, according to World Health Organization standards, a country’s COVID-19 positivity rate should be no more than five per cent for a consistent period of 14 days for it to enjoy a comfort level to ease restrictions en bloc. Jamaica’s latest surge started two weeks ago after the Government reopened the country fully, with one third of 783 communities reporting cases of the virus.

“This is not good for the country. This is not the direction that we want to be in,” Tufton admitted during last night’s online COVID Conversations.

Meanwhile, the country awaits a review by Cabinet on the way forward, the health minister would not comment on whether new measures would affect the upcoming Dream Weekend, which is scheduled for Negril in August.

PRIVATE DOCTORS ON BOARD

As downtrodden as Tufton sounded during the briefing, he was also heartened by the thousands of vaccines that he expects to arrive in Jamaica as early as next week. He and his team have affixed an ambitious target of vaccinating 900,000 Jamaicans by the end of September.

Private doctors are expected to be part of the process of administering the vaccines.

Tufton also stated that at least two senior medical officers at two of the island’s major health facilities – the National Chest and the Cornwall Regional hospitals – gave assurances that they were equipped to deal with a third wave.

“Currently, we have 42 beds available for the management of patients who require admission, with the capacity to increase that number to 63 if required. We have used the opportunity to ensure that the majority of our beds have what we call tight oxygen, and we ramped up our oxygen capacity as well. So when we have piped oxygen, oxygen delivery is more stable versus using cylinders. This is not to say that we won’t need cylinders, but hopefully, we won’t be as dependent on it as before,” Dr Terry Baker of National Chest stated.

Dr Derek Harvey said Cornwall Regional anticipated that there may be a third wave as well and accepted the fact that with their challenges, they have put in additional pipe areas and have received donations of high-flow oxygen naval kits as well as the addition of an eight- or a nine-bedded area, which is more purpose-built than when they had the temporary area.

The Cuban nurses are still at the hospital assisting the local team, said the CRH senior medical officer.

In the meantime, over 300,000 Jamaicans have received at least the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, with some 179,000 fully vaccinated from that lot.

As at Wednesday, Jamaica recorded 51,542 cases of COVID-19, with 1,167 deaths.

janet.silvera@gleanerjm.com