Tufton credits flattening of COVID-19 curve to early response

Tufton credits flattening of COVID-19 curve to early response

Friday, May 22, 2020

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MINISTER of Health and Wellness Dr Christopher Tufton has credited the Government's policy measures, including early planning and response to perceived threats, in enabling the country to flatten the coronairus (COVID-19) curve up to this point.

Dr Tufton, in a digital presentation to the 73rd World Health Assembly (WHA) on Tuesday, said that Jamaica's response was grounded in the five strategies of the country's COVID-19 Plan.

These are planning and coordination, situation assessment and monitoring, prevention and containment, health system response, and communication.

He pointed to the support given to the country by the World Health Organization (WHO), which has been providing substantial assistance through its regional arm, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).

“Under the guidance of the WHO, Jamaica's early response to the COVID-19 epidemic and our proactive approach to preventing, detecting, containing and responding have resulted in significant slowing down of the disease in the country,” he said.

“Our success, so far, has centred around an early education programme, enhanced surveillance, early institution of restrictions, early response to perceived threats, and rapid containment exercises,” he added. Dr Tufton pointed out that the resulting increased public awareness, early detection of cases, along with the primary health care establishment, enabled the country to mobilise response teams into communities for case investigation and contact tracing.

He noted that some difficult, but necessary, decisions have also been made to protect the population.

“As a country we have had to take drastic decisions to shut down sections of the island in order to conduct investigations and to contain this disease,” he said.

He said the WHA that past responses to public health emergencies, such as measles and malaria, and the experience gained have enhanced the country's contact tracing capabilities, and early implementation of these measures from the detection of the first imported case have had positive results.

He indicated that the country also moved early to establish quarantine and isolation facilities and to build capacity within hospitals to respond to severe cases. This, he said, along with the slowing down of the disease resulted in fewer than expected hospitalisations.

Dr Tufton reported that additional capacity has been built within the health sector, for example, in high-dependency units, mechanical ventilator support and improved inventory management of personal protective equipment.

COVID-19 wards have also been established and health care workers have been sensitised about infection prevention and control measures.

Minister Tufton thanked PAHO and the WHO for the assistance provided and from which the country continues to benefit in strengthening laboratory services through increased testing capacity, which he noted, has helped to bolster the country's response to the pandemic.

The World Health Assembly is the decision-making body of WHO and is attended by delegations from all WHO member states.

The main functions of the assembly, held annually in Geneva, Switzerland, are to determine the policies of the WHO, appoint the director general, supervise financial policies, and review and approve the proposed programme budget.

World leaders and health officials from across the globe participated in the 73rd assembly from May 18-19, 2020, which was held virtually for the first time due to the global health pandemic .

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