Thu | Jan 27, 2022

‘One big outbreak’ could erode COVID gains, Hanover official warns

Published:Tuesday | November 30, 2021 | 12:08 AMBryan Miller/Gleaner Writer
Travellers visit a COVID-19 test site at Heathrow Airport in London on Monday. The new potentially more contagious Omicron variant of the coronavirus is threatening to cause major disruptions to global travel.
Travellers visit a COVID-19 test site at Heathrow Airport in London on Monday. The new potentially more contagious Omicron variant of the coronavirus is threatening to cause major disruptions to global travel.

WESTERN BUREAU:

As global concerns swirl over the new Omicron variant, Dr Kaushal Singh, medical officer of health (MOH) in Hanover, has warned that the projected fourth wave of the deadly coronavirus here could be devastating and is pleading with residents of the western parish to get vaccinated as the near-two-year pandemic evolves.

“One big outbreak will change all the achievements to date. Our hospital can get overwhelmed,” said Singh of the Noel Holmes Hospital in Lucea during an interview with The Gleaner on the weekend.

As scientists race against time to understand Omicron’s spike mutations, which are more than double the number of the Delta variant, Singh also urged Jamaicans to observe health and safety protocols such as the wearing of masks – a mandatory measure being reimposed in a number of countries as viral infections flare and more cases of the new variant emerge. More than a dozen nations have flagged Omicron infections.

“They need to get the vaccine. ... It will prevent them from coming down with serious illnesses, and it will also make their international travelling smooth, as several countries are putting certain requirements in place for entry,” said Singh.

The MOH is particularly concerned about vaccine hesitancy among the youth, whose inoculation would insulate the elderly, who are among the most vulnerable to the virus.

Jamaica’s 18 per cent per-capita vaccine compliance rate has left it lagging all of its Caribbean neighbours, except Haiti – a trajectory that threatens the island’s March 2020 target of 65 per cent herd immunity.

Singh said that the Hanover Health Department has been undertaking numerous outreach programmes across various communities, including operating up to nine vaccination sites and 19 primary healthcare facilities.

“The number of persons who are turning up to be vaccinated is quite low,” said Singh. “Sometimes while looking at the number of persons turning up to be vaccinated, it is not very cost-effective for us.

Since the start of the pandemic, there have been some 2,987 COVID-19 positive cases recorded in Hanover, of which 138 are non-nationals. The November 10 statistics showed that approximately 168 persons have died from the virus in that parish.

bryan.miller@gleanerjm.com