Minister of Health and Wellness Dr Christopher Tufton is today (May 18) confirming that Jamaica is currently experiencing its fifth COVID-19 wave as cases continue to spike across the island.
Tufton, speaking from London, England, on Wednesday, during a specially convened COVID Conversations press conference, indicated that the fifth wave is due to the impact of the Omicron coronavirus subvariant BA.2.
“Firstly, I want to say, Jamaica can confirm the fifth wave of COVID infections. On the review of the epidemiological curves for confirmed COVID-19 cases, and the reproductive rates to identify the inflexion point for increased cases, this inflexion point for the fifth wave occurred around April 20,” he began.
“This fifth wave is likely due to the Omicron subvariant BA.2, given the increasing proportion of this subvariant in [general] population and its higher transmissibility,” Tufton added.
Jamaica confirmed 147 new cases over the past 24 hours, bringing the cumulative total to 133,250, while the positivity rate, which Tufton lamented as ‘remaining high’, was at 17.6 per cent. He further noted that the seven-day average for Jamaica’s positivity rate was 25.6 per cent.
Tufton, while conceding the figures were cause for alarm, urged Jamaicans not to panic as there are discernable differences between the subvariant-fuelled outbreak currently sweeping the island and previous waves.
“This is not a signal to panic, although we must be mindful and we must take care to protect ourselves against the virus,” said the minister as he renewed appeals for Jamaicans to get vaccinated.
According to the Tufton, however, as at 8:00 am today, some 1,429,614 COVID-19 jabs have been administered in Jamaica, representing roughly 23 per cent of the eligible population.
Of that number, 696,700 first doses (Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Sinopharm), 593,866 second doses and 100,100 single doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine have since been administered nationally.
What’s more, 4,067 jabs were given to the immunocompromised, in addition to 34,881 booster shots.
In providing a detailed overview of the current national situation, epidemiologist Dr Karen Webster-Kerr, speaking from Jamaica, noted that young people between 20 and 39 years continue to be the most active group spreading the virus—accounting for 37.8 per cent of all confirmed cases in the country. COVID-related deaths are still, however, highest among the elderly.
Over the last two weeks, the Ministry of Health and Wellness observed an uptick in locally acquired coronavirus cases in St James, Westmoreland, St Ann, Trelawny and Hanover.
On the community level, Webster-Kerr said 376, or a whopping 48 per cent, of the 783 Jamaican communities islandwide experienced cases between May 3 and May 17.
Webster-Kerr admitted that, based on the ministry’s weekly mean reproductive rates, cases are increasing across Jamaica, though a jump in hospital admissions has yet to occur.