COVID-19 restrictions could be eased further, but...
Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton

Health authorities have indicated that there could be a further reduction of COVID-19 restriction measures if positivity rates continue to trend down, but stressed that any such move will be based on a number of factors.

“We don't anticipate that we are going to be living in this environment forever. The idea is to manage the risk, to overcome the risk and hopefully, over time, given all the measures including the vaccine eliminate the risk. The more you achieve persons getting vaccinated, the less the risk because that is the most effective defence as of now, and therefore you will see the elimination and relaxation of non-clinical measures,” Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton said yesterday at the ministry's COVID conversations briefing.

Chief Medical Officer Dr Jacquiline Bisasor-McKenzie said it was difficult to predict what measures would potentially be lifted, but this is the direction the country should be trending towards.

“The better our numbers get, the more we get vaccinated, then the more likely we are to reduce more restrictions,” she said.

Jurisdictions such as the United States have increasingly been lifting face mask mandates and other COVID-19 restrictions across a number of states. In the Caribbean, countries like Barbados have indicated that face mask restrictions will not be lifted any time soon. Guyana has also said that it will not be removing its face mask mandate for people fully vaccinated against the novel coronavirus.

Vaccination levels have not been optimal among the target population here, up to this point. After 13 weeks of vaccination, 161,850 people have received their first dose, or eight per cent of the population of 1.9 million targeted for next year March.

Only a small percentage of Jamaicans across some health regions have turned up to take their second dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine, but the ministry says there is still time before those individuals become eligible for their second dose, as the original timeline given was 10-12 weeks for the second dose, and some people may in fact be adhering to that timeline.

Director of family health services in the ministry Dr Melody Ennis stressed that by the end of June the ministry could provide clearer data on the second dose take-up.

Meanwhile, the CMO said Jamaica is not yet out of the woods despite the decline in hospital admissions. She said the health system is still under pressure, as of the over 700 beds reserved for COVID-19 patients, only 150 are new bed spaces.

BY ALPHEA SAUNDERS Senior staff reporter

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