Government issues stern warning to Westmoreland residents
The Ministry of Health and Wellness is reporting a very worrying trend in western Jamaica and in particular Westmoreland, which has seen a spike in COVID-19 infections and deaths.
Based on the surveillance of the National Epidemiological Team, the ministry reports that last month the number of confirmed cases moved from 245 to 460. In the last two weeks, over 100 new confirmed cases have been recorded.
In a statement to Parliament Tuesday afternoon, Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton stated that “within Westmoreland alone, we have had 22 deaths overall – 12 of those recorded in the last two weeks. Our surveillance at the hospital that serves the parish also shows a worrying trend, with COVID admissions having been increasing steadily over the last three months.”
100% INCREASE IN COVID-19 ADMISSIONS
For October, there were 23 admissions and, for November, there were 55 admissions. This represents a 100 per cent increase in admissions in one month.
Tufton reported that Westmoreland is demonstrating community spread that has the potential to increase further over the December to January period.
Said the health and wellness minister: “We are seeing an increase in cases, an increase in hospitalisations and an increase in deaths. In response to the data, the Ministry of Health & Wellness, through the Western Regional Health Authority and the Parish Health Department, has utilised several modalities to increase awareness and to stimulate behaviour changes.“
These include public awareness and testing in the transport centres, the town centres, churches, health facilities, schools, workplaces, markets and in the business district. In addition, the ministry has made three community interventions over the last two weeks.
In Savanna-la-Mar, 104 persons were tested, with 13 found positive. In Little London, 102 persons were tested, 19 of whom returned positive results. In Grange Hill, 100 persons were tested, 16 of whom were found to be positive.
When the Health and Wellness Ministry examined the surveillance map for the parish, almost 80 per cent of all communities are showing active cases, with persons showing varying degrees of severity of illness – from asymptomatic to requiring transfer to the intensive care units of the Cornwall Regional Hospital and the University Hospital of the West Indies. These cases are being triggered by careless behaviour and lack of adherence to infection prevention and control measures.
Tufton declared that the young persons within these communities are actively engaging in social interactions thus exposing themselves to the virus and taking it home to their older relatives, who are becoming ill and some dying. Based on the on-the-ground information provided by the police and the local health team, most of the infections are driven by illegal parties hosted at bars and corner shops, nine nights and wakes, and the infamous bike parties that move from community to community.
INDISCIPLINE ERODING THE GAINS MADE
Tufton argued that this indiscipline threatens all previous efforts and could ultimately erode the gains made over the last several months to contain the spread and reduce the rate of infection He noted that this represents a clear and present danger to the efforts of the Ministry of Health and Wellness and indeed the entire country to not only flatten the curve but also to ensure that Jamaica is able to prevent the overwhelming of the public health system.
As Jamaica moves in high gear in terms of its preparedness for an expected surge in COVID-19 cases later this month and into the New Year, Tufton said the situation in Westmoreland has moved faster than anticipated and must be cauterised now before the country start to see an exponential increase that will certainly overwhelm the health system. He told Parliamentarians that he has been directed by Prime Minister Andrew Holness to give due warning to the people of Westmoreland that this behaviour will not be tolerated.
Tufton cautioned that, if the present measures are not adhered to and there is no change in the trajectory over the next few days, then new restrictions will be imposed on the parish to effect the change.
“We will use every tool at our disposal to ensure that the work of the health team – those nurses, doctors, public health inspectors, community health aides, contact investigators, porters, and medical technologists – is not undermined or brought to futility,” Tufton warned.