COVID reinfection possible with reopening of economy, warns CMO
Dr Jaquiline Bisasor-McKenzie
As some countries across the globe grapple with new increases of the coronavirus (COVID-19) due to the reopening of their economies, Jamaica's Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Dr Jacquiline Bisasor-McKenzie, says there is also a possibility of reinfection on the island due to reopening of the local economy.
In that regard, she has urged citizens to remain cautious, stressing that Jamaica is still in the early stages of dealing with the virus.
Jamaica has taken steps to gradually reopen the economy with the work-from-home orders scheduled to end on May 31 despite some warnings from several stakeholders that infections could escalate if the proper health protocols are not established within work environments.
Amid the concerns, the island, however, continues to record less cases of the virus, and as reported on Wednesday, 26 persons recovered from COVID-19, marking the largest number of recovered patients over a 24-hour period locally.
In emphasising that there is still inadequate information about the behaviour of the COVID-19, Bisasor-McKenzie, who was speaking at Wednesday's online press conference of the Health and Wellness Ministry, said individuals should continue to exercise a cautious approach to the virus.
"At this time I must say that yes there is the possibility of reinfection because we do not know (the behaviour of the COVID-19), but for Jamaica, we are still early in the process, and what we are seeing from our positive cases is that it is taking upwards of three weeks, sometimes four weeks, for persons to become negative," she explained.
"We are also not sure at that time in that last part of the positive results, whether or not persons are infective, because sometimes you can have viral particles that will give a positive test, but may not necessarily be infectious. So there is still a lot to learn from the infection, and so the necessity of a cautious approach," the CMO outlined.
The Health and Wellness Ministry reported that nine additional coronavirus cases were recorded, moving the island's tally to 529. None of the active COVID-19 patients locally are critically ill.
On another positive note, the number of recoveries totalled 171.
With cases of the virus slowing, the Government, in an effort to once again boost economic activities within the country, announced on Monday that the work-from-home orders that were issued in March are to expire at the end of May. This will be applicable to all persons excepting those 65 years and over, and persons with pre-existing conditions which make them more vulnerable to the coronavirus.
Work-from-home measures were put in place two months ago to limit the spread of the virus in the country.
Since Holness' announcement on Monday of the pending end of the work-from-home orders, several persons have expressed concerns about this decision, expressing fear of a resurgence in the number of cases on the island.
But the prime minister reiterated that the normal infection prevention and safety protocols will need to be maintained with thousands pf workers expected back in their offices and in factories and other business entities as of June 1.
The Government has also relaxed some social distancing measures, and has allowed churches to reopen under specified conditions from May 16, while bars were allowed to reopen from May 19.
Speaking at Wednesday's press conference, Health and Wellness Minister, Dr Christopher Tufton, said it was still early to determine if churches and bar operators were adhering to the COVID-19 prevention and control protocols since the reopenings.
"I think in the coming days we will have a better appreciation for what the status of that activity is. We have spoken to a few persons. I had one on the discussion last Wednesday, and the impression was that there were attempts to comply, but I guess the time will tell over the next few days," Tufton said.
The prime minister had indicated that the reopening of bars was part of efforts to gradually reopen the island, and to prepare citizens to live with COVID-19.
But despite repeated warnings from health experts globally that the virus could make a resurgence, many countries, including the United States, have further eased lockdowns under pressure to save their economic livelihoods.
In the US, for example, Dallas, Houston, Southeast Florida’s Gold Coast, the entire state of Alabama and several other places in the South that have rapidly reopened, are in danger of a second wave over the next four weeks, a research team said, according to a report from the Washington Post.
More than five million people worldwide have been infected with COVID-19, and over 300,000 deaths have been recorded, including more than 90,000 in the US and over 160,000 in Europe, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University this week.