Wednesday 21 October, 2020

No need for panic, despair, says Tufton in relation to COVID-19 spike

Dr Christopher Tufton (File photo)

Dr Christopher Tufton (File photo)

Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr Christopher Tufton, is imploring the Jamaican public to stop panicking over the spike in the number of coronavirus (COVID-19) positive cases and deaths, contending that the Government’s plans are still being rolled out.

Tufton was speaking at a virtual press conference on Thursday where he said the Government had anticipated the current situation and had implemented measures to mitigate against the spike by slowing and managing the community spread of the virus.

In describing what the Government has sensed over the last few weeks, Tufton said there is an increasing dissatisfaction, disaffection and concern among the population that the Government and the Ministry of Health and Wellness have lost control of the situation and are not doing enough to protect the public.

“The Government and the ministry are doing all that we can to ensure that the response to the COVID pandemic, the COVID threat, is adequate, is thoughtful, is deliberate, and is acting in the best interest of the population.

“I want to take the opportunity to say that we are as a Government, as a people, and certainly as a Ministry of Health, continuing to take COVID-19 and the response to COVID-19 as a very important and an absolute priority for the health and wellness of the population,” said Tufton.

His response came after a rapid increase in positive tests results and deaths. The spike started just before the September 3 General Elections and has continued since then.

On September 3 the reported figures were 139 cases, bringing the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases at the time to 2,822, with 27 deaths.

The figures on Thursday of this week, just over two weeks after the general elections, showed one death and 193 new cases for overall tallies of 77 deaths and 5,588 confirmed cases, respectively.

According to Tufton, while the numbers are concerning and every death is a tragedy, the Government and the ministry continue to deliberate on improving the process and response during the community transmission phase. He said the plans included the rapid spike.

“It is not a time to panic, not a time to give up, and it’s not a time to engage in despair or even negative thought. It is a time to be resolute and to work together, each of us, to overcome the process.

“The ministry and the Government in anticipation of this phase, have triggered the response that is necessary, that we have been planning for some time, to address the phase that we are in, to mitigate against the risk, and to give the added protection that is required of our Jamaicans,” Tufton said.

He dismissed reports that the ministry had stopped contact tracing, and said the employment of additional community health aides and 121 medical officers earlier, was in anticipation of this phase of the COVID-19 fight.

Also, according to Tufton, the equipping of health facilities to enhance the capacity to deliver specialist care and the training of health personnel were means to counter the COVID-19 effects on the island.

He said the Government’s recent approval of antigen testing is also part of the process of controlling the virus, as also the deployment of field hospitals. The first field hospital was commissioned into operation at the National Chest Hospital in St Andrew on Thursday, with three more expected to be established in different sections of the island.

“That facility (the first field hospital) is now up and available. We have the staff to man the facility should we need it. We do not need it at this point, but it is because of the forethought or forecasting of the possibility that we will need it one day, why it has been put in place,” said Tufton.

“We are now using a third or so of our 350 plus COVID ward beds, and so we do have excess capacity, but we are thinking ahead and we did anticipate that may be the case.

“The Government has always taken very seriously the response to COVID-19. We have been in constant planning mode, execution, operationalising the plans since January of this year, and it is a tribute to the hard work of the team why we are where we are today, and why we have been able to respond,” added Tufton.

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