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