COVID-19 will change public health approach

MONTEGO BAY, St James — Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton says the COVID-19 global pandemic is bound to change the way public health is approached globally.

He argued that the disease has exposed parts of the world, to some extent, to its level of unpreparedness to deal with significant public health risks.

“That manifestation is demonstrated in how some countries have actually been dealing with it. It is characterised, to a large extent, by panic response, and that is manifested in a number of ways,” Dr Tufton told the Jamaica Observer.

“At the same time, with all of that, it [the pandemic] is helping us to recalibrate our approach to public health to make us more resilient to prepare to overcome the weaknesses, and to place in sharp focus how important it is as countries, and as the world, to invest more and be prepared.”

The slow pace at which a number of countries across the world, including the US and the United Kingdom, have moved to put measures in place to mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus has been blamed by many for the large number of infections in those territories.

As of yesterday, there were more than 713,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States with over 33,000 deaths and roughly 60,000 recoveries.

In the case of the UK, more than 114,000 people have contracted the disease, which has accounted for roughly 15, 500 deaths, while in Spain more than 20,000 people have succumbed to the disease.

Dr Tufton argued, however, that Jamaica, as opposed to some countries, has not had a panicked response to the crisis.

“We have planned, we have anticipated, and we have tried to take a number of actions long before we have had the risk or the threat levels elevated, and that’s a good thing,” he said.

“It has showed for us in Jamaica the strength of our private health care system in areas like contact tracing, the resilience of and flexibility of our secondary system, in terms of hospital adjusting despite the limitations, and, of course, the responsiveness of a Government that has redirected resources to give full support and, finally, the unity of a people, Government, and Opposition, but the general population in coming together and coalescing around in overcoming the threat,” the health and wellness minister argued.

“For me, ultimately this experience will make us stronger and we learn from it and will become better over time.”

The Jamaica Government, in recent weeks, has implement a raft of measures, such as islandwide curfews, lockdowns in several communities, and the closure of bars and others businesses, social distancing, among others, to stem the spread of COVID-19.

But even before the first case was confirmed on the island in mid-March, teams from the Ministry of Health and Wellness, have been sharing valuable information with the public about the deadly disease, while working feverishly to prepare health workers for its arrival.

Additionally, the Government has launched a multibillion-dollar Care Programme in a bid to cushion the fallout in the economy.

Up to Friday, Jamaica had 163 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with five deaths and 23 recoveries.

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