Why no lockdown of Tivoli Gardens after 5 COVID-19 cases

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Why no lockdown of Tivoli Gardens after 5 COVID-19 cases

BY ALPHEA SAUNDERS
Senior staff reporter
saundersa@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, July 03, 2020

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THE Ministry of Health and Wellness says the decision to place the west Kingston community of Tivoli Gardens under surveillance instead of a lockdown, as it had done in other communities where novel coronavirus infections were detected, was based on a risk assessment.

More than 100 public health professionals were deployed to the community last week to conduct surveillance after one imported case of the novel coronavirus was detected in Lizard Town, and consequently four other people tested positive in the household.

Speaking at a Special Select Committee on Public Health (COVID-19) yesterday, health minister and chair of the parliamentary committee, Dr Christopher Tufton said, in the case of other communities such as Cornpiece in Clarendon and Annotto Bay in St Mary, the coronavirus-infected individuals had wide relations in the communities and had come in contact with several households.

“The characteristics of the Cornpiece scenario as opposed to west Kingston is that the gentleman [in Cornpiece] who was positive had significant relations within that community, there were many houses that were related, there was significant movement between the houses, and those persons, because he was ill and fairly elderly, he attracted more visits...It really is an assessment of the risk and the significance of the movement, and the timing of the intervention. What you do is make a call as to whether or not it has potentially spread based on the exposure level,” he explained.

Chief Medical Officer Dr Jaquiline Bisasor-McKenzie outlined that the decision to lock down or launch community surveillance depends on factors such as the point at which transmission was cauterised.

“For Tivoli, we had it just in [one] home. For the other investigations, it was three homes in Cornpeice and Annotto Bay as well. For Annotto Bay, what we found was that there were symptomatic persons and that those persons were in different locations within a wider community... If these persons were symptomatic, there was a high likelihood that other persons could have been infected and then those persons would have been incubating, so it now means that we need to stop to check what's happening in the rest of the community,” she explained, adding that, on the other hand, where there is a cluster of asymptomatic cases, the likelihood of these individuals spreading the virus would be lower.

However, she said it is difficult to differentiate when a person moves from incubation to being pre-symptomatic, to having mild symptoms.

“So while there is a risk of exposure, what you're hoping is that you would not have the level of spread as when you have symptomatic cases. So based on the time period and whether you have other persons who would have been exposed, that is what triggers the community surveillance rather than a lockdown. It's an analysis of what's happening, the time period that has passed that we look at to make these decisions,” Bisasor-McKenzie said.

She informed the committee that, in addition to the confirmed cases being isolated, 268 households have been visited under fever or respiratory surveillance, 721 people were interviewed, and 137 sampled for the virus. The community has an estimated population of 1,200 people.


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