Amid rising COVID-19 cases and double-digit positivity rates, Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton says the Jamaican Government has no regrets about its decision to remove the Disaster Risk Management Act (DRMA) and other restrictive COVID-19 measures.
Addressing last Thursday’s (April 28) COVID Conversations digital press conference, Tufton informed that, while there has been an increase in the number of confirmed coronavirus cases, this has not yet translated to an uptick in hospitalisations.
Speaking on the matter, the health minister shared: “A ray of hope around the current scenario which, based on positivity rates could be viewed as concerning, but when juxtaposed against hospitalisation rates there is a fairly significant lag between positivity cases and the number of persons who are being admitted in the hospital.”
Within this context, Tufton noted that, despite the rising case numbers, available data does not suggest that the relaxation of COVID measures has poorly affected the country’s position in the coronavirus fight.
He stated: “There is a level of risk in every decision that is taken… . We recommend or make policy around the COVID response that attempts to balance the critical interests, that combined makes up a society and how a society functions, but there is also recognition that in making that decision there are risks…
“The opposite in terms of the need to balance and the need to achieve certain things that we were not achieving before also has been taken into consideration…the general response is that we need to get back as much as possible to normality… .”
The minister disclosed that this need for a return to normal is based on the knowledge that after two years of the pandemic the society has endured immense stress, in addition to numerous side effects surrounding the prolonged closure of schools and hindrances to economic growth.
With this in mind, Tufton said: “The relaxation was intended in keeping with an assessment of the COVID risks to achieve that balance.”
‘A Risk Worth Taking’
In the case of the removal of the mask mandate, he noted: “It is not a recommendation not to wear a mask… (but) instead the mask mandate removal is a policy that says you don’t have to (wear a mask) but if you think that you need to, you should assess and wear your mask.”
Asked if he saw the Government reintroducing COVID-19 pretesting as a requirement for travel in the near future, the minister shared that while he anticipated a further increase in the positivity rate he envisions that this will later decline as has been the case in other countries.
He added: “The future dispensation is not so much about positivity it is about hospitalisations and deaths… . As of now, every death is one too many but the numbers are far lower when compared with the positivity.
“I don’t think we should live in regret as it relates to the lifting of those restrictions but we will continue to monitor as we go along… . Again there are risks but, as a Government, we felt it was worth taking that risk at that particular point in time.”