Health ministry not projecting 17,000 COVID deaths

Health ministry not projecting 17,000 COVID deaths

Friday, September 25, 2020

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A projection by public health expert Dr Alverston Bailey that thousands of Jamaicans could die as a result of the novel coronavirus has been rejected by Minister of Health and Wellness Dr Christopher Tufton, who has indicated that Government does not “intend to lose 17,000 Jamaicans” to the dreaded disease.

Dr Bailey, an associate professor at the School of Public Health at the University of Technology, Jamaica, is reported elsewhere in the media as saying the figure is a real possibility if the spread of COVID-19 continues on the current trajectory.

The health ministry has predicted, based on modelling, that approximately 1.5 million Jamaicans could contract the virus.

As of Wednesday, Jamaica recorded one additional COVID-19 related death, bringing the total to 77, and 193 cases bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 5,588 with 3,939 active.

But yesterday, Dr Tufton said that both the Government and Jamaicans have been “managing and confronting” the pandemic in a way that should be recognised and encouraged.

He said, so far, the country “has done fairly well” based on the ministry's modelling.

“I don't want the impression to be given that we intend in any way, shape or form to lose 17,000 Jamaicans to COVID, and that was not our projection. That would not be correct in terms of our own assessment, firstly, and secondly, it's not something one would want to encourage. I prefer to say, 'Jamaicans, do what you are required to do, given the guidance of the health ministry and the Government, and you will minimise, significantly, the risks of deaths,” said the minister.

He added that compliance in this regard will prevent the country from recording anywhere close to that figure.

National epidemiologist Dr Karen Webster-Kerr, too, said the number of likely deaths mentioned is not reflective of the ministry's position.

She noted that with widespread access to several apps which offer models and projections on which individuals can rely, it is easy to come up with a figure.

“We have reviewed many of them and there was one that gave such a figure, but when we looked at how it modelled, how it performed in what has happened, it wasn't performing very well. Models are good, but they are just for planning, and all models are wrong. That's not my quote.

“So, we have to be careful how we look at some of these apps and some of these models, because they may not be performing to what we have existing in Jamaica,” she cautioned.

— Kimone Francis

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