Holiday parties and gatherings likely led to current COVID spike - CMO
Dr Jacquiline Bisasor-McKenzie
The increased number of gatherings and parties during the first week of August when Jamaica celebrated the Emancipation and Independence holidays are most likely responsible for the current spike in COVID-19 cases.
That’s according to Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Jacquiline Bisasor-McKenzie.
The CMO was speaking Friday during an emergency press briefing at Jamaica House, where Prime Minister Andrew Holness announced more restrictive curfew hours of 7 pm to 5 am daily, effective Saturday, August 22, for the parishes of Kingston, St Andrew, St Catherine and Clarendon.
The measure are to last until September 2.
Bisasor-McKenzie said while the authorities are still investigating the record daily total of 98 new cases that was announced on Thursday, which pushed the country’s total of confirmed coronavirus cases to 1,290, “It’s most likely due to an increase in movement and gatherings” that would have marked the holiday period.
“If you look at the time-frame, you would realise we’re just about one incubation period outside of that period,” she pointed out.
The COVID-19 virus has an incubation period of up to 14 days. As such, there is usually a lag time from the time a person is infected until that person starts to show symptoms. Still, other persons are asymptomatic and will only be known to be carrying the virus if they are tested.
Alarmingly, the CMO said that at least 16 of the latest confirmed cases were as a result of “parties and nightclub activities”.
And, even more disturbing, is that persons who know they are ill with the virus are still going out in the public and interacting with other people.
“We still find that many of our cases are arising out of persons who knowing that they are ill and still going out to work and out in the community to engage with other persons,” Bisasor-McKenzie said.
She added that from surveys done in the various communities by the health teams, there is no shortage of knowledge about the COVID-19 in Jamaica. However, the CMO said many persons hold the view that the virus does not pose a threat to them.
“They believe that it will happen to somebody else. And many persons therefore are engaging in activities and not adhering to distancing rules or infection control processes,” the CMO lamented.
Bisasor-McKenzie said Jamaicans are relying on enforcement by the Ministry of Health and Wellness and the security forces, instead of taking it on as a personal responsibility to safeguard themselves and their families.
Despite the challenges, she expressed confidence that Jamaica can still control the new surge of cases through vigorous case investigations, contact tracing and enhanced community surveillance. To achieve this, she said the authorities will need the full co-operation of the public.
The CMO said the authorities will be doing all the work necessary “to try to mop up all the cases that are there presently, but it’s very important at this time that we try to prevent new exposure and new infections.”
She warned that if the situation is not reined in quickly, “we are going to overwhelm our capacity to manage”.