Tufton urges continued COVID-19 vigilance
... stresses restrictions could be reintroduced if cases balloon
Noting that the coronavirus pandemic was not yet over, Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton is urging Jamaicans not to become complacent as the Government has the power to reinstitute infection-control restrictions should there be a drastic increase in COVID-19 cases.
On March 17, two years after the first COVID-19 case was recorded locally, the nightly curfews introduced to limit the transmission rate were lifted and other restrictions loosened. Last Friday, the mask mandate in enclosed spaces and pre-travel COVID-19 testing requirement for visitors were abandoned.
On Tuesday, the health ministry updated its guidelines for infection prevention and control in health facilities.
At the handover ceremony of medical equipment for the COVID-19 response by Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) at their offices at The University of the West Indies, Mona, yesterday, Tufton explained the revision.
“It is a difficult decision sometimes to determine on what is the best public health response in one sense, while being very sensitive to the realities of other public health implications and economic and social implications from some of those actions that we take that directly align to the best practice as it relates to COVID,” Tufton explained to The Gleaner.
“It’s not to downplay the importance of the wider society also complying with infection prevention and control,” he added. “But we do understand the reality of the risks that healthcare workers face and take when someone turns up in an institution, whether coughing [or] sneezing with other forms of symptoms and – just as we would, for any form of infectious disease, require them to wear gloves or wear masks. What we are saying here in the case of COVID, we have to establish higher levels to protect them so that they can protect us.”
He also defended the Government’s move to relax the measures.
“These are real issues that confront us each day, and in a sense, we have to find that balance, so we have taken some steps. The Government announced measures, up to recently, which have certainly given the impression that we are back to normal as a society, and in a sense, that is our desire – to get back to normal,” Tufton said.
“... One should recognise that some of those decisions have to be taken in the context of where we are, where we need to go, and some of the many variables that have to be considered,” the minister added, noting that the public health team continues to track the COVID-19 threat.
“The prime minister has said that the length of time that we have embraced and utilised the Disaster Risk Management Act has been unusual for an unusual threat and unusual occurrence, and we should recognise that we have to do away with that. We have to accept that. But we did say … that the Public Health Act and the Quarantine Act represent the tools that will always be there to utilise should it be needed, in terms of whether a reimposition of or new measures to be imposed around managing the threat that COVID represents,” he said.
Yesterday, Jamaica received critical medical equipment valued at $40 million to support its COVID-19 response. The donation includes oxygen flowmetres, pulse oximeters, medicine and emergency trollies, adult nebulizer face masks, digital blood pressure machines, and plastic utility electrocardiogram (ECG) cards to support laboratory diagnosis and case management.