West fingered as island sees 'slight' increase in COVID-19 cases

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West fingered as island sees 'slight' increase in COVID-19 cases

BY KIMONE FRANCIS
Senior staff reporter
francisk@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, November 27, 2020

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THE Ministry of Health and Wellness (MOHW) is reporting a “slight” increase in the number of COVID-19 cases on the island, raising concerns that the virus could further pick up steam throughout the Christmas season.

Speaking at last evening's virtual COVID Conversation, hosted by the MOWH from Montego Bay in St James, regional technical director at the Western Regional Health Authority Dr Dianne Stennett Campbell said an uptick in cases in the western end of the island accounts for the overall increase in the country's figure.

She said the increase was observed last week, with Westmoreland, Hanover, Trelawny, and St James being fingered as parishes responsible.

The week-on-week figures were not provided for a breakdown.

“In terms of what we're seeing, there is a slight increase in terms of our seven-day moving average number of cases. So, we were coming down nicely [in October] and now we're seeing an increase since November; this last week especially,” she said, noting that the west is more active than anywhere else on the island at this time.

She added, however, that the increase in cases likely represents local transmission, and at the same time pointed out that no “clear” link has been established with the tourism sector.

“I think one of the things we have to stress is personal responsibility. We know that a lot of people are getting tired and COVID fatigue is setting in, but we need to remind ourselves about the importance of sticking to the protocols. We have to ensure that we are doing our social distancing, wearing the masks, and that we're not gathering above the prescribed amounts we're supposed to.

“There are still activities happening. People are still having parties and other gatherings in homes and we have to really look at those activities to ensure that as we go into the Christmas season we can cauterise this increase that we're seeing,” Dr Stennett Campbell said.

Up to yesterday, Hanover accounted for 218 of the 10,537 COVID-19 cases reported since March; Westmoreland, 363; Trelawny, 237; and St James, 1,094.

“Most of the cases we're seeing are locally transmitted cases. We do have cases in the tourist sector, but we have not been able to establish clear pictures of whether it is transmission between visitors in our hotel sector and workers or staff members. Usually, it is from the home environment in terms of that transmission that happens locally. So we're carefully watching that picture. It may change, but that is what we're seeing right now,” she said.

Meanwhile, Dr Stennett Campbell has maintained that preparations are taking place “to manage the spike” in terms of capacity at Cornwall Regional and Falmouth hospitals.

She said isolation spaces have been increased at both hospitals and plans are in place to make adjustments should they witness a surge.

“We are monitoring personal protective equipment so that the staff can do so safely. We have put in place protocols in terms of the hospitals to improve infection control, and we also have ensured that the staff is trained and there are staff welfare activities to ensure that they are ready,” she outlined.

“In addition to managing the surge, there is the primary care and prevention aspect that works, as well. So the preparation of the hospitals also includes that improvement, in terms of preventing those cases. So you will see our community response increasing. We're going to do more, and we've been doing more testing and more [public] education campaigns in town centres, and we're doing more monitoring in institutions and in business places as well,” she said.


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