Right Steps & Poui Trees


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“…while there’s no confirmatory test, I am prepared to say that we should assume that the [Delta] variant is here…” – Minister of Health, Jamaica

At the Ministry of Health and Wellness (MOHW) press conference on Thursday, July 22, 2021, more data and information was presented indicating that Jamaica is beginning to experience a third wave of infections in the Covid-19 pandemic. The first wave peaked in terms of number of confirmed cases in September of last year and the second wave in March of this year.

From left to right: Permanent Secretary Dunstan Bryan, Minister of Health & Wellness Chris Tufton, Chief Medical Officer Dr Jaquiline Bisasor-McKenzie, National Epidemiologist Dr Karen Webster-Kerr

In her presentation, National Epidemiologist Dr Karen Webster-Kerr indicated that all of the main Covid-19 indicators were moving in the wrong direction:

MOHW slide – press briefing 22-7-2021

“And so the final slide is a summary of where we are for our main indicators. Our geographical spread level is medium. The bed occupancy is at high pressure. The Positivity is at high transmission level. The reproductive rate is increasing and we see this is exponential increase in both cases and hospitalization. Our vaccination level, where it is now, is too low to have an effect on transmission or significant effect on transmission.”

– Dr Karen Webster-Kerr, National Epidemiologist, MOHW press briefing, 22-7-2021 (transcribed from PBCJ recording)

Among the things noted in the presentation, were that:

  • one third of the communities across the country have cases of Covid-19, with Kingston & St Andrew, St Catherine and Hanover being the parishes with the highest numbers at this time
  • the level of hospital bed occupancy by confirmed and suspected Covid-19 patients had been falling but then plateaued recently and has climbed into the high level again in the past few days
  • the Reproductive Rate of transmission has increased from 1.1 in the previous week to the rate last week of 1.2, indicating an increasing rate of exponential spread; the rate of hospitalisations is also increasing exponentially
  • the Reproductive Rate has increased since the relaxation of interventions, which began on June 3 and were increased on July 1; the rate is now at 1.2.

It was in his comments following Dr Webster-Kerr’s presentation that Minister Tufton said that we could assume that the Delta variant was now in Jamaica:

“We do not have any evidence of the Delta variant being here from the tests that have been done but these tests are ongoing. We send samples out every week and while there is no confirmatory test, I am prepared to say that we should assume that the variant is here. And I am prepared to say that because the probability of it being here is probably greater than it not being here, based on the border access and the travel restriction removal, including coming from countries where the Delta variant is now the dominant variant – the UK being one or a main one but also now the United States. I am not talking about any particular sector. It’s not about tourism because the truth is as Jamaicans we travel very frequently, the diaspora. So once we have that kind of interaction, particularly in this case with a highly contagious variant of this virus, as outlined by the scientists, it is very likely. But from the tests that have been done we have not yet confirmed. But results will continue to come in and as soon as we confirm, we will make it known.” 

 – Minister Chris Tufton, MOHW press briefing, 22-7-2021 (transcribed from PBCJ recording)

Chief Medical Officer Dr Jacquiline Bisasor-McKenzie spoke about the rising indicators which signaled the increased pressure that is likely to affect the health system, the plans to meet this increased pressure and the challenges being faced.

Dr Bisasor-McKenzie’s presentation begins approximately 21 minutes into the press conference. See PBCJ recording below.

Minister Tufton advised that the Cabinet Sub-Committee dealing with Covid-19 was scheduled to meet on Saturday, July 24, 2021 and that the decisions made would be announced this week. We wait to hear the outcome of these deliberations, which is likely to have significant impact on how the 3rd wave of infections in Jamaica plays out.

PBCJ Recording of MOHW Covid-19 Press briefing 22 -7-2021


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On the Verge of a Third Wave? – Jamaica’s Current Covid-19 Situation

At the meeting of the Joint Select Committee on the Covid-19 Pandemic and Related Matters that was held at Parliament this week Tuesday (July 20, 2021), National Epidemiologist Dr Karen Webster-Kerr gave an update on Jamaica’s Covid-19 situation, using data as of July 19.

A copy of the slide presentation presented by Dr Webster-Kerr is available here:

Dr Webster-Kerr noted the increase in the number of new cases and the positivity rate that has been seen in the past couple of weeks.

She pointed out that the Reproductive Rate of the virus is once again over 1, now being at 1.1. This means that Jamaica is again experiencing exponential spread of the virus, albeit at a slow rate of spread. This rate could easily increase sharply without preventative measures.

One of the questions that has been asked frequently in recent weeks is whether the more contagious Delta variant is now present in Jamaica, particularly since it has now become the main strain of Covid-19 being seen in the UK and the USA, both being countries which see a lot of air travel with Jamaica. In Parliament last week, Minister of Health Chris Tufton said that genetic sequencing test results from samples sent to the CDC had not shown the presence of the Delta variant. When asked by Opposition MP Morais Guy, however, he was unable to say when those samples had been collected.

A slide in Dr Webster-Kerr’s presentation dealt with the samples sent for genome testing since December 2020 and indicated that the most recent results received were still those from the CDC.

However, in response to MP Guy’s question about how recent the samples were that had been sent for testing, Dr Webster-Kerr said that the samples sent to CDC on June 8, 2021, were mostly taken in May, with three from April and two from June. The samples sent to PAHO’s lab in Brazil on June 24, 2021, were mainly from April and May with a few from June.

This highlighted the point that the samples from which we have received results are too old to give any clear indication of whether or not the Delta variant is now in Jamaica.

Minister Tufton also responded on the issue of the samples and the Delta variant:

I think we have to be as straightforward with the country as possible, not just on the evidence based on the tests done but on the likelihood based on projections and circumstances. I think you raised an important point, Member [Morais Guy], on questioning the recency or age of the samples that were collected. And I think it’s quite clear that based on the dates around those samples the likelihood of picking up the Delta variant at that time would be less than it would be presently. And I think the most recent samples, the ones that are to go off, which would contain samples of June and hopefully July, would be our key insight, if you will, into whether the Delta variant is here.

These things normally not advisible to give a personal view but certainly based on the interactions that we are having as an open society with other geographic spaces that have the Delta variant as a dominant feature of those populations, I certainly believe that it is just more a matter of time before we detect that that variant is here. And I think the true, the same could be said for other populations throughout the world. This is the nature of the virus, this is how it spreads and once you are exposed with borders that are open of necessity, for trade or otherwise, you are going to have that level of exposure.

So I do believe that a more accurate reflection of what is present in the population as it relates to variant strains will come from the most recent batch of samples collected and I think the country should be advised of that and should continue to observe the protocols in anticipation that we are likely to have the Delta variant.

Minister Chris Tufton, Covid Joint Slect Committee, July 20, 2021 (Transcribed from PBCJ recording)

The Clinical Management Summary posted by the Ministry of Health and Wellness (MOHW) yesterday, giving the figures for Tuesday (July 20, 2021) added to the concerns being expressed. The number of new cases recorded was 111, which was the first time since May 27, 2021, that the number of new cases recorded in a day had gone over 100; it was 108 on that day. Also, the positivity rate was 16.1%; a rate higher than that had not been recorded since May 5, 2021, when it was recorded at 18.7%

In Parliament on Tuesday, Prime Minister Andrew Holness made a statement regarding the Covid-19 situation and indicated that the Cabinet Covid-19 Sub-Committee would be meeting on the weekend and that if the trends continued, tighter restrictions might be announced. Such an announcement might be made next week Tuesday.

In an interview with Dionne Jackson Miller on RJR’s Beyond the Headlines yesterday evening, epidemiologist Professor Peter Figueroa expressed concern about the point that Jamaica is now at, with an increase in cases and a Reproductive rate of 1.1.

We are facing an imminent surge of the Delta, it’s probably the Delta variant and that can be very swift with an increase in cases. We need measures immediately….I’m concerned because we cannot afford to watch and wait. When you look at the data, when you start to get an increase in cases, it rises rapidly.

Professor Peter Figueroa, Beyond the Headlines, July 21, 2021 (Transcribed from recording)

There seems to be a general consensus that if the Delta variant is not actually here yet, it will be sooner or later. And there are many who see the recent increases as an indication that we are already on the verge of a third wave of Covid-19 in Jamaica.

PBCJ RECORDINGS OF PARLIAMENT

Meeting of Joint Select Committee on the Covid-19 Pandemic and Related Matters – Tuesday, July 20, 2021

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A0YqkijcuaQ

Sitting of Parliament at which PM Holness made statement about current Covid-19 situation in Jamaica – Tuesday, July 20, 2021

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rAjn-ewhgoI&t=391s


Disaster Risk Management Order No. 5, 2021 – Dated April 13, 2021 (& Amendment to Order No. 4)

On Tuesday (April 13, 2021) in Parliament, Prime Minister Andrew Holness announced new measures under the Disaster Risk Management. The gazetted order has been posted online on the Office of the Prime Minister’s website. It has not yet been posted on the Ministry of Justice website. I have posted a copy of the Gazette below.

For completeness, I have posted the amendment to Order No. 4 2021, although its provisions have now been replaced by Order No. 5


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Disaster Risk Management Order No. 4, 2021 – Dated March 23, 2021 (& Amendment to Order No. 3)

The Gazette of Disaster Risk Management (Enforcement Measures) (No. 4) Order, 2021 containing the measures announced by Prime Minister Holness last Sunday (March 21, 2021) and spoken about in Parliament on Tuesday (March 23, 2021) was posted on the Office of the Prime Minister’s website yesterday (March 26, 2021).

Here is a copy of the gazetted order:

Also, for completeness, here is a copy of the amendment to the previous order – No. 3 2021 – dated March 12, 2021.


The Bill to Amend the Disaster Risk Management Act

Posted below is the Bill to amend the Disaster Risk Management Act that has been tabled in Parliament.

And here is a copy of the Disaster Risk Management Act, 2015


Disaster Risk Management Order No. 3, 2021 – Dated March 1, 2021 (& Order No. 2 & Its Two Amendments)

The Gazette of the current Disaster Risk Management Order has now been posted on the Ministry of Justice website and the Office of the Prime Minister’s website. I have posted a copy below:

To bring my blog up to date, I am also posting copies of the three orders gazetted in February, 2021:


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Jamaica’s #COVID19 Vaccination Plan: Two documents posted by the Government today

At a press briefing this morning (March 2, 2021), the Ministry of Health and Wellness representatives gave more details about Jamaica’s plans for vaccinating people against Covid-19. The first batch of vaccines is slated to arrive in the country this week and vaccination is planned to begin soon thereafter.

Left to right: Permanent Secretary Dunstan Bryan, Minister of State Juliet Cuthbert-Flynn, Minister Christopher Tufton, Chief Medical Officer Dr Jacqueline Bissasor-McKenzie. Also participating Dr Melody Ennis, Director of Family Health Services (Pictured at top right Antoinette Aiken, providing sign language interpretation)

Now posted on the Ministry of Health & Wellness website are an updated copy of the National Covid-19 Vaccine Deployment & Vaccination Interim Plan Version 1.0 and the Interim Vaccination Logistics plan. I have posted copies of both documents below:

Also here is the link to the PBCJ recording of the press briefing.


Disaster Risk Management Order (Amendment), 2021 – Dated January 25, 2021

The Gazette of the Disaster Risk Management (Enforcement Measures) (Amendment) Order, 2021 was posted online a week ago on the Office of the Prime Minister’s website. It has not yet been posted on the Ministry of Justice or Ministry of Health and Wellness websites. I have posted a copy below.


INDECOM’s Special Report on Rio Cobre Juvenile Correctional Centre Raises Serious Concerns

The 3rd and 4th Quarterly Reports of the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) were tabled in Parliament today. The former contains a Special Report on the Rio Cobre Juvenile Correctional Centre, one of the four juvenile correctional and remand centres operated by the Department of Correctional Services (DCS). This report raises a number of serious concerns about the treatment and well-being of the children in State custody at that facility, as well as the effectiveness of oversight mechanisms that are supposed to protect those children.

I am posting copies of the two reports tonight. I will write more in days ahead.


Disaster Risk Management Order, 2021 – Dated January 15, 2021 & Amendments 2, 3 & 4 to Order No. 16 of 2020

The Gazette of the first Disaster Risk Management Order for 2021 became available today:

This Gazette has been posted on the Office of the Prime Minister website. It is not yet on the Ministry of Justice website, but will probably be posted there shortly. I no longer regard the Ministry of Health & Wellness website as a reliable source of the Gazette, as the amendments aren’t posted there; it does, however, have a link to the OPM website.

Last Order & Amendments for 2020

Gazetted copies of the last three amendments for 2020 are posted below. I have also reposted Order No. 16 for ease of reference.

The first of the Covid-19 Disaster Risk Management Orders was broadcast in March 2020, ten months ago. I don’t know how long the government intends to continue issuing these orders. The question remains as to whether this is the way in which these measures should be issued on an ongoing basis, this long after the start of the pandemic, one of the issues being the lack of parliamentary oversight provided by this mechanism.