Uptick in COVID-19 cases could see some strict measures reimposedThursday, July 22, 2021
BY ALICIA DUNKEY-WILLIS
WITH an uptick in the numbers of new novel coronavirus cases islandwide, possibly signalling the beginning of a third wave, in the few weeks since the Government released Jamaicans from months of restrictive protocols, Prime Minister Andrew Holness yesterday hinted at the possibility of a reintroduction of strict measures.
Speaking in Parliament yesterday, the prime minister said “indiscipline, complacency and lack of diligence in observing the protocols” on the part of Jamaicans have been driving the spread.
“Based on the early warning signs that we are seeing, the COVID sub-committee of Cabinet will be meeting this weekend to review the situation to consider whether there may be need to tighten some of the measures in advance of August 10, and I will report to the nation by a press conference, possibly Tuesday, if we intend to make any new changes to the orders,” Holness said.
He said in the three weeks, since June 22 when the Government announced the recrafting of measures in Parliament which took effect on July 1, the number of new infections have gathered speed.
“After the measures came into effect, based on the latest report from this morning (yesterday), Jamaica recorded 122 new cases of COVID-19 yesterday. Our cumulative cases of COVID-19 are now at 51,404. Sadly 1,163 persons have died,” Holness said.
According to health officials, since March 20, 2021, during which Jamaica peaked at 15,944 new cases, the number of new cases of COVID-19 has been decreasing month on month. In April, the country saw 6,234 new cases; 2,817 new cases in May; 1,572 new cases in June; and 1,238 new cases so far this month.
“Our July numbers are showing an uptick relative to June. In June 2021, we averaged 52 cases per day, so far in July we are averaging 62 cases per day. Yesterday we recorded 122 new cases, our single highest day in terms of numbers in over eight weeks since May 20,2021,” the prime minister said.
He noted that, while a single day's case number was not by itself indicative of a trend, there were other factors that were cause for concern, such as the positivity rate by epidemiological week since the start of the pandemic in Jamaica.
“There was a general decrease in positivity between week 11 and week 25 of 2021 from the peak of 38.9 per cent to six per cent in the week ending June 26, 2021.
Since week 26, however, there has been an increase in positivity. Our average positivity rate for the last seven days was 8.8 per cent and for week 29 the positivity rate so far is 9.9 per cent. This puts us in the high transmission range. Our target is to get our positivity rate down to five per cent or below, we are almost doubling that now,” the prime minister stressed.
As for the reproductive rate which shows how fast the virus is spreading by measuring how many additional persons are infected on average by one infected person that is now at 1.1. epidemiologists have said that this figure needs to remain below one for at least a six week period.
The prime minister said officials were also seeing some changes in the geographical spread of the virus with St James, St Thomas, Trelawny, Kingston and St Andrew being the parishes most impacted since the start of the pandemic.
“Western parishes are experiencing a greater level of spread, Hanover and Westmoreland, for example, are seeing a level of spread on a per capita basis that is two to three times that of Kingston and St Andrew. Over the past seven days Hanover and Westmoreland recorded 107 new cases, whilst the KSA and St Catherine recorded 197 new cases,” Holness told parliamentarians.
“I want to urge all Jamaicans to exercise extreme caution. This is not the time to become complacent. Be vigilant about observing the protocols and keeping ourselves and each other safe,” the prime minister said, noting that while he may be viewed as alarmist, the insidious nature of the virus meant it had to be taken seriously. In the meantime, he said while samples sent off from the island for testing have not revealed the presence of the virulent Delta variant so far, it is nevertheless foolhardy of Jamaicans to think it will not make its way to the island “if it is not already here”.
Opposition spokesperson on health Dr Morais Guy, meanwhile, is insisting that the variant is already on the island though not yet officially declared.
“You mentioned that we have had no tests so far that have identified it in the country. The samples, however, that have come back negative for Delta have been only up to April, May, and a couple samples from June, so almost for the three-and-a-half weeks of the remainder of June and the three weeks in July so far, it could very well be that those samples that come back will show that Delta is here. I am of the view that it is here,” Guy said.
“In fact,” Guy continued, “I am of the view that it is the reason we are having the death rates we are having in terms of the weekly mortality rate but until we can confirm. It goes to the need for the genomic sequencing machine to be here from very early so that we would not have to depend on outsourcing it from friendly international partners. The country is on edge right now because even though today the rate is 16.1, the reality is that people are wondering whether we are doing sufficient testing and gathering the information that is accounting for this.”