With the island’s coronavirus positivity rate increasing steadily, health officials are anticipating that the COVID-19 cases will rise in the coming days.
The warning came on Thursday from Health and Wellness Minister, Dr Christopher Tufton, who also pointed out that, while the daily infections and positivity rate increase, the number of people hospitalised remain low, offering a “ray of hope”.
Based on the COVID-19 report released by the ministry on Thursday, Jamaica recorded 115 new infections and a positivity rate of 11.6 per cent.
The increase in cases is likely as a result of the BA.2 variant of the omicron strain of the novel coronavirus, which is the dominant variant globally and highly transmissible, and has been detected in Jamaica.
Speaking at Thursday’s Covid Conversations press briefing, Tufton noted that the island’s reproductive rate now stands at 1.4, which, “under normal circumstances, would be concerning because it means that the spread of the new variant strain, generally, is multiplying at a rate that is exponential.
“… And so, we do anticipate that a lot more persons are going to be positive or are positive in the coming weeks,” he declared.
Amid that scenario, he disclosed that the hospitalisation rate remains “relatively flat at one, between April 1 and April 27.
“That, for us, certainly for me as the policymaker, is suggesting that while the virus is a more highly contagious virus, and it is spreading and persons are getting it, the hospitalisations… at least up to this point, is going at a slower rate,” Tufton said.
This trend, he said, is similar to other countries in the world, including the United States, “where the positivity rate is growing at a fairly rapid pace over 40 per cent, but hospitalisation is increasing by about 12 [or] 13 per cent”.
The minister reminded, however, that with Jamaica’s low vaccination rate, the risk of significant damage to person’s health, resulting in death, remains exponentially higher with the population remaining unvaccinated.
“The message is clear. Get vaccinated! Vaccines are there, and it is still the best form of protection,” warned Tufton.
Up to Thursday afternoon, 1,415,488 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines had been administered. Of that number, 693,095 were first doses, 589,212 were second doses, while 96,532 were single doses.
The island has also administered 3,918 doses to immunocompromised individuals, while 32,731 booster doses have been administered.
The minister encouraged citizens to continue mask-wearing, hand sanitisation and other virus protection protocols though they have been relaxed since the dissolution of the measures under the Disaster Risk Management Act.
Tufton said, too, that people displaying symptoms of the respiratory illness should remain at home.
“There are a number of persons in the population who are infected now, based on the reproductive rate, and likely others to get infected.
“If you’re not well ,go get tested, and you should stay away from others and protect not just yourself but others around you,” Tufton urged.