The gazetted copy of Disaster Risk Management Order No. 9, Amendment No. 2 is available online on the Office of the Prime Minister website, though not yet on the Ministry of Justice website. I have also posted a copy below. With many of the measures in this amendment expiring this week, another announcement by the Prime Minister is expected, perhaps in Parliament on Wednesday, when the House of Representatives resumes its sittings after the summer break.
We are in our third wave of Covid-19 in Jamaica.
The Delta variant, which for some time has been assumed to be in Jamaica, has now been confirmed to be here.
The number of new cases and hospitalisations have been been rising steadily.
In the third week of August, new cases were over 500 per day on all days but one, the positivity rate was over 40% on 5 days of the week and hospitalisations had gone from 204 on August 1 to 573 on August 21.
At a press conference called by Prime Minister Holness last Thursday (August 19, 2021) to announce changes to the Covid-19 measures, Chief Medical Officer Dr Bisasor-McKenzie gave a presentation, which has been variously called sobering, alarming, frightening. Covid-19 indicators are all going in the wrong direction, with our vaccination levels too low to have any significant collective impact on the effects of this wave.
The slide below from her presentation set out some sobering, alarming, frightening projections for increases in confirmed cases and deaths, if the reproductive rate remained at 1.4, and for daily hospital admissions, if the reproductive rate remained at 1.3.
The deaths reported by the Ministry of Health and Wellness (MOHW) during August have been going up at a steadily increasing rate. For the first week, 26 deaths were reported, 78 for the second week and 88 for the third. The totals for weeks 2 and 3 are already above the weekly reported deaths seen during the height of the 2nd wave in March this year. And we are not yet at the peak of the current wave….
The parishes with the highest reported deaths so far in August are Kingston & St Andrew (KSA) and Westmoreland, with 47 and 28 respectively.
(I want to make clear that I describe the numbers as REPORTED deaths because it is often not possible to tell from the Clinical Management Summaries the day on which deaths actually occurred.)
I have included a map of Jamaica showing the parishes, for ease of reference.
The report issued today, with yesterday’s data (Sunday, August 23, 2021) saw a record number of new cases being confirmed – 879, the highest single day total since the start of the pandemic. (The highest number prior to this was 878, recorded on March 7, 2021, during Jamaica’s 2nd wave.) Hospitalisation have reached 607 and 14 additional deaths were reported.
The days of lockdown announced will hopefully help to bring the numbers down. But they will not affect the deaths already likely to result from the high numbers of infections in the past few weeks. The increase in deaths typically lags behind the rise in cases by a few weeks. As Prof Peter Figueroa said in an interview on Nationwide News Network last Friday :
“We have a very serious surge of COVID cases, a lot of persons in hospital. The hospitals are close to being overwhelmed with the number of persons being admitted with COVID. This surge is looking worse than the last surge that we had that peaked in March of this year.”Prof Peter Figueroa, Nationwide News Network interview, 20-8-2021
Our hospitals and medical personnel are being overwhelmed. And as Prof Figueroa and other medical and public health professionals have said…it is going to get worse before it gets better. Actions taken now, by the government and the people, can help to reduce further infections and further deaths. But downplaying what’s happening, wishing it weren’t so or ignoring the science will not.
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
Sitting of Parliament at which PM Holness made statement about current Covid-19 situation in Jamaica – Tuesday, July 20, 2021
On October 28, 2020, Prime Minister Andrew Holness announced some changes to the Disaster Risk Management measures. The measures are detailed in the Gazette of Disaster Risk Management (Enforcement Measures) (No. 15) Order, 2020, a copy of which is posted below.
The gazetted Order has been posted on the Ministry of Health & Wellness website (scroll to the bottom of their page), but at the time of publishing this blog, it is not yet on the websites of the Ministry of Justice or the Office of the Prime Minister.
The Gazette of Disaster Risk Management Order No. 14 was posted online this morning. A copy of the order is posted below:
Prime Minister Andrew Holness announced the new and amended measures contained in this order in Parliament last week Tuesday (October 6, 2020). That the Gazette was posted on the governement website a week later is problematic, but it is the pattern that has prevailed throughout the many months since these Orders have been used. Perhaps we are meant to be grateful that the gazetted orders are posted on the Ministry of Justice, the Office of the Prime Minister and the Ministry of Health & Wellness (scroll all the way to the bottom of the page) websites, albeit some time after the measures are announced, as initially they were not posted online by the government at all.
On September 15, 2020, I sent the following Access to information request to both the Ministry of Health & Wellness (MOHW) and the Office of the Cabinet (CO):
“I would like to make a request for the following information under the Access to Information Act:
1) Documents containing information regarding the use of curfews as a measure to reduce risk of Covid-19 transmission during Easter public holidays April 2020
2) Documents containing information regarding use of curfews as a measure to reduce risk of Covid-19 transmission during Labour Day public holidays May 2020
3) Documents containing information regarding use of curfews as a measure to reduce risk of Covid-19 transmission during Emancipation and Independence public holidays August 2020
These documents could be dated prior to or after the relevant public holidays.”
I received an acknowledgement from the MOHW on September 17, 2020…
“This acknowledges receipt of your Access to Information requesting documents as detailed in bullets 1-3 below.
Please be advised that we have started the necessay research and will revert to you as soon as possible within the timelines of the Access to Information Act 2002.”
…and a subsequent phone call to clarify the information that I was seeking.
On September 21, 2020, I received the following acknowledgement of my request from CO:
On October 7, 2020, I received this response from MOHW, indicating that no documents relevant to my request were found:
Today, October 9, 2020, I received this response from CO indicated that no documents related to my request were located:
I just want to note that this response does not indicate that there are documents containing this information, but that they are exempt because of being Cabinet documents as set out in Section 15 of the Access to Information Act.
So, there are no documents in the possession of either the Ministry of Health & Wellness or the Office of the Cabinet that contain information about the use of curfews as a measure to reduce the risk of the transmission of Covid-19 during the Easter, Labour Day or Emancipation and Independence public holidays this year. Documents dated either before or after these public holidays.
Increased curfew hours have been announced for the upcoming Heroes’ Day public holiday. I wonder if any documents containing information about this exist at the Ministry or the Cabinet Office?
These are the two most recent amendments to Disaster Risk Management (Enforcement Measures) (No. 11) Order, 2020, which is the current order in force.
Amendment No. 4 contains the protocols governing the access to voting for Election Day (September 3, 2020) for people in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19.
There are two amendments to Disaster Risk Management No. 11 Order, one dated August 5, 2020 & the other dated August 18, 2020. Here are copies of the gazetted amendments:
The Gazette of the Disaster Risk Management Order No. 10 was posted on the website of the Ministry of Justice today (July 20, 2020). It contains measures announced by Minister of Local Government Desmond McKenzie in Parliament on July 14, 2020. The Gazette is dated July 15, 2020, although it was not available when I called Jamaica Printing Services on July 17 to ask if I could obtain a copy.
Here is a copy of the Gazette:
As of the time of posting my blog, the gazetted copy of the Order has been posted on the Ministry of Justice website, but not yet on the Office of the Prime Minister or Ministry of Health and Wellness websites.
The Gazette of the most recent Disaster Risk Management (Enforcement Measures) Order was posted on three government websites this afternoon (July 9, 2020). The Gazette of this Order – No. 9 – is dated July 1, 2020, although it wasn’t gazetted on or before July 1. This doesn’t surprise me anymore, as it seems to be common with the gazetting of these Orders, that they are given a date which is earlier than the date on which they are actually gazetted.
A copy of the Gazette is provided here:
I tweeted earlier this week about this ongoing, unsatisfactory situation regarding the delay in gazetting the Disaster Risk Management Orders.