A friend called me late Friday afternoon (March 13, 2020) simply to share her feelings of unease. We agreed that it felt as though we were on the brink of a major event or shift, that it felt as though we were living into a period of grave change. Much has happened since that call that bolsters the feelings we were experiencing that Friday the 13th afternoon.
Somewhere in the wee hours of that day, Jamaica’s Ministry of Health & Wellness had issued a press release giving a delayed update regarding the status of Covid-19 cases in the country, indicating that there were six new cases on the island.
Jamaica has confirmed six new cases of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) on the island.
The cases, which bring to eight the number of confirmed cases, include:
- Two males, aged 63 and 67, who came into the island on March 7 from Trinidad, having travelled from Malaysia by way of Dubai and London. They presented at hospital on March 11.
- One male, 36, who travelled from Manchester, England. He was taken to hospital from his hotel via ambulance on March 11.
- One male, 31, a Jamaican overseas ship worker who came in from the Canary Islands via Portugal and Miami. He arrived in the island on February 25 and presented to hospital with symptoms on March 10.
- One male, 58, who is the father of the first patient who was confirmed with COVID-19. He was discovered ill at home on March 11.
- And one female, 34, who is a close contact, also of the first patient who was confirmed with COVID-19 on the island.
The Minister of Health and Wellness Dr the Honourable Christopher Tufton will meet with the media on Friday afternoon to provide further details. He is currently examining the level of preparedness for COVID-19 in western Jamaica.
Ministry of Health & Wellness Press release, March 13, 2020
I had watched the rather bizarre press conference held by the US President at the White House that afternoon, which once again illustrated the problematic nature of the federal response to COVID-19 in that country. I had seen reports of the Cayman government’s measures announced that afternoon, in the context of their first confirmed case. (He was a passenger on a cruise ship, who had been hospitalized in Cayman with serious heart problems, who later showed symptoms of COVID-19 and unfortunately died. Medical staff were exposed to the virus while caring for him before he showed symptoms and the hospital has now been closed for two weeks.) The measures included no cruise ships being allowed for 60 days, schools being closed until April 27 and gatherings of 50 or more people being banned.
I had been waiting for the promised press conference by the Jamaican authorities to update the country on the new confirmed cases, initially announced for 2pm, but which got underway after 6pm. You can watch the full recording on the PBCJ YouTube page or on Prime Minister Holness’ Facebook page.
Some major developments were announced at that press briefing, at which the following officials also spoke: Minister of Health & Wellness Chris Tufton, Chief of Defence Staff of the JDF Rocky Meade, Commissioner of Police Antony Anderson, Chief Medical Officer Dr Jacquiline Bisasor-McKenzie, Attorney General Marlene Malahoo Forte, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health & Wellness Dunstan Bryan, Minister of Foreign Affairs & Foreign Trade Kamina Johnson Smith, Minister of Local Government & Community Development Desmond McKenzie, Minister of Science, Energy & Technology Fayval Williams, Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation with responsibility for Land, Environment, Climate Change and Investments Daryl Vaz and Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett.
Some of the developments announced included:
- the declaration of the entire Jamaica as an area of disaster
- the quarantining of the communities of Seven & Eight Miles, Bull Bay, St Andrew, because of need to check for evidence of community spread of COVID-19 (related to the first confirmed case in the country)
- the adding of the United Kingdom to the list of countries on which travel restrictions have now been placed
- the expansion of isolation areas across the country
- efforts to increase the number of medical professionals to deal with the situation, including 21 specialist nurses arriving from Cuba on March 24 & requests for retired nurses to return to service
- the restriction of visits to government golden age homes and infirmaries for the next 15 days
- special arrangement for increased trucking of water to areas experiencing water shortages
Since Friday, there have been additional developments related to COVID-19 here:
March 16, 2020 – 5 More Preliminarily Confirmed
In a press release sent out shortly after midnight this morning, the Ministry of Health & Wellness notified that there were 5 more preliminarily confirmed cases in the country. With the two cases confirmed yesterday (March 15, 2020), this brings the current total of confirmed cases in Jamaica to fifteen.
March 15, 2020 – 2 More COVID-19 Cases Confirmed; 17 test negative
Press Release from the Ministry of Health & Wellness
“The Ministry of Health & Wellness is reporting that two new cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in the island. This is following the results from the National Influenza Centre, where 19 tests were conducted in the last 24 hours. Seventeen (17) of the cases tested were negative.
The country now has a total of 10 confirmed cases. One of the new cases was identified through contact tracing relating to the index case (Patient 1), while the second patient presented at hospital with a travel history to Trinidad and Tobago and had symptoms similar to COVID-19. Both persons were isolated and samples collected and tested.
The seventeen (17) other patients, who tested negative, included persons who are from Kingston and St. Andrew, St. Ann and Clarendon and who were identified through contact tracing from confirmed cases, where a similar protocol was observed to isolate and test.
Up to Saturday, March 14, 2020, 27 patients were in isolation facilities. They remain stable, including patients 1 and 2, who no longer have symptoms. Patients whose test results are negative will be released shortly.
The Ministry wishes to remind all persons, who suspect that they have had exposure to COVID-19 and are displaying symptoms to self-isolate immediately and contact the Ministry of Health & Wellness at 888-ONE-LOVE (663-5683) or 888-754-7792 for further instructions”
We’ll see what today and the week ahead bring.