With Jamaica continuing to observe low levels of COVID-19 transmission, health officials are remaining cautiously optimistic about the island returning to normalcy as they monitor surges of the respiratory illness overseas.
Jamaicans are being warned as well, to be “opened minded” in the event that actions are to be taken to combat a surge of the virus cases locally.
Recently, several coronavirus containment measures, including the nightly curfew, were lifted, while entertainment events were given the go-ahead by the Government.
Speaking at the Health and Wellness Ministry’s COVID conversations press briefing on Thursday, Chief Medical Officer (CMO) on Thursday, Dr Jacquiline Bisasor-McKenzie, said the island’s COVID-19 indicators are trending low, with only 236 cases of the virus recorded within the last two weeks.
She outlined that 16 per cent or 125 of 783 communities across the country have positive cases over a 24 hour period up to Wednesday afternoon.
“We had our peak, in terms of the number of COVID cases, on the 14th of January (this year), and since then, we have had a steep decline in the number of cases, and the cases continue to go down,” Bisasor-McKenzie reported.
Additionally, the seven-day COVID-19 positivity rate now stands at 3.6 per cent.
The CMO further stated that hospitalisations continue to decline, with 30 admissions being reported as of Wednesday, well below the over 700 beds dedicated for COVID-19 patients.
“Bed occupancy at our hospitals is below the green level, and low pressure on our hospitals means (that) we are returning to normal services, and so our clinics are now reopened as well,” she said.
Bisasor-McKenzie, however, emphasised that the reproductive rate had slightly increased to 0.9, but was still below the standard of one.
“We remain below one, which is good, but we have to carefully monitor the situation, because we do see across the world that there are areas where we are seeing an increase in the number of cases,” warned Bisasor-McKenzie.
In disclosing that deaths are declining locally and internationally, the CMO pointed out that it was still vital for infection prevention protocols and vaccination to be maintained, given the rate of infections in other countries.
She elaborated that, “We are seeing an increase in the number of cases in the western Pacific area, in particular, where we are seeing a 21 per cent increase in the number of cases in the last week compared to the week before, and globally, a seven per cent increase in the number of cases.
“Still, reassuringly, we are seeing a continuous decrease in the number of deaths globally.
“… Even though Europe is showing a zero per cent change in the last seven days, we would note that there are some countries, like Italy, France, Germany and the UK, that are seeing an increasing in the number of cases,” stated Bisasor-McKenzie.
Should there be a surge in coronavirus infections in Jamaica, the CMO said the country has experienced four coronavirus cases, and the health sector is better prepared to death with another wave.
The Government last week lifted the COVID-19 protocols, including curfew hours, under the Disaster Risk Management Act (DRMA), and relaxed several other measures, including mask wearing under certain circumstances.
Bisasor-McKenzie urged citizens to be “open minded”, should the Government and health officials are forced to act in light of a future surges.
“Everybody has to be open minded to understand that, yes, if we do see an indication to suggest that actions need to be taken, then we will take actions,” she warned.
For Health and Wellness Minister, Dr Christopher Tufton, the country was “in a far better position should we have a surge… that requires a response, because we now have a script.”
Added the minister: “We have the experience, which is still very fresh in our minds to apply a response that would be more effective as each response has been to the different surges that we have had.”
Also of significance should Jamaica undergo a second surge, is a shift in the focus on positive persons who require hospitalisations, according to Tufton.
He explained that, “We are shifting the focus somewhat… The issue is not so much now on the number of positive cases,… but for us, the real test or the real challenge is the extent to which positive cases lead to an increase in hospitalisations, and of course, the worse case scenario of persons demise from COVID.”
In echoing the CMO’s position that current surges around the world are not resulting in a spike in the COVID death rate, Tufton said the ministry will continue its monitoring of variant strains globally and its impact on hospital systems in those jurisdictions.
This, he said, will assist the ministry in its crafting of a plan and response to the likelihood of a surge locally.