Spread of COVID-19 in upper-class areas worrying, says Tufton

Spread of COVID-19 in upper-class areas worrying, says Tufton

Senior staff reporter

Saturday, September 05, 2020

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MINISTER of Health and Wellness Dr Christopher Tufton says the concentration of positive COVID-19 cases in upper-class communities is worrying and that certain types of gatherings practised by that echelon of society could be a contributing factor.

He was speaking yesterday at a digital press conference held by the ministry where he announced that the country is now in the community spread phase of the pandemic, which means the virus is present across the entire island with no epidemiological link for transmission in many cases.

“Uptown seems to be in some cases, particularly in the Corporate Area, more affected now than downtown. Not to allow anyone to be complacent downtown, but it is quite obvious that the spread in certain parts of uptown seems to be more concentrated,” he stated.

He said there are a number of possible explanations such as house parties and gatherings.

“Just as we would say if you're sitting on the corner in other communities [although] that's the kind of relaxation and entertainment and cultural dynamics we are used to, we have to desist; I'm saying the same for those who have the house parties and engage in the kind of practices that do not encourage the physical distancing; you are just as vulnerable. No matter who we think we are or where we are from or where we are we have to comply because you are as susceptible to the virus as everybody else, and we have to follow the protocol. The Kingston 6 and 8 [areas], and so on, have to be careful because we are seeing evidence of the spread in those communities that is worrying and could have implications for your own health and wellness,” Dr Tufton said.

He explained that Jamaica declared community transmission on September 2 and that mechanisms are already in train in the public health system in anticipation of a “steep rise” in the number of cases over the next six to eight weeks.

Community spread means the virus can no longer easily be traced.

“The number of cases that are turning up in our hospitals and health centres and the spread of those numbers across the country means basically that COVID is out there everywhere and possibly could be affecting anyone. What this means is that the approach to managing will have to change to not allow the spread to overwhelm the public health system,” Tufton said. He hinted that protocols to manage this new phase will be announced following Cabinet's decision on Monday. The measures, he said, will include new curfew hours.

In the meantime, Chief Medical Officer Dr Jaquiline Bisasor McKenzie described the situation as having paled in comparison to the April to June peak of the virus.

“We were slowly creeping up as of week 27 when we had a positivity rate of 0.8 per cent and from then we have been slowly creeping up until at the end of week 34. About August 22 we were at about 4.9 per cent and then there was a dramatic increase at the end of last week to over 15 per cent and this week we are trending in the same direction, where, so far, we have a positivity rate of 17 per cent,” she stated. The positivity rate is a percentage of the number of COVID-19 tests that are conducted.

Dr Bisasor Mczlenzie pointed out that of the 783 communities across the island there are active cases in 40 per cent or 311 of these, which is a geographical indicator of the spread.

She said even if the imported cases were to be excluded, that still leaves 292 communities affected, or 37 per cent of communities.

The ministry predicted from the outset of the pandemic that about 1.6 million Jamaicans will contract the virus over the course of a year. It said, however, that the majority of those cases would be mild, with just over 1,800 needing to be admitted to hospital with severe respiratory illnesses.

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