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Quarantine quandary


ALMOST 24 hours after arriving in the island from New York under the Government’s controlled re-entry programme a firsttime mother travelling with her newborn had not been fed, highlighting a weakness in the system.

The new mother, who arrived in the island sometime after 11:00 am on Wednesday, told the Jamaica Observer that the group of Jamaicans was transported to a hotel in St Ann to start their 14-day quarantine.

The mandatory isolation forms part of the Government’s response to limit the local spread of COVID-19, which stood at 509 cases yesterday, with nine deaths and 118 recoveries.

The woman, who is three months post-delivery, said that she and her group arrived at the hotel at approximately 4:30 pm and remained on the Jamaica Urban Transit Company bus until around 8:00 pm on Wednesday, when they were allowed to go to their rooms.

Her first meal since arriving in the country, which consisted of a piece of yellow yam, dasheen, and sweet potato, along with a mixture of corned beef, beans and sweet corn, came shortly after 9:00 am yesterday, she said.

“The room that I am in is not clean at all. It seems as if they didn’t clean. It even smells a bit funny, because at one point I was searching to see if there were any dead rats in here. From yesterday when we came they didn’t give us anything to eat until this morning, after 9,” the woman, who the Observer will not identify, said.

At the point of arriving at her room she said she reached out to a security guard, who, along with soldiers, were patrolling the floor on which she is staying. She was informed that food was being prepared.

“Nobody came. So this morning [yesterday], I had to go outside because I heard talking in the hallway, and when I looked it was other persons complaining to the security guard. I asked the security guard what was happening and explained to her that I am breastfeeding,” she said, adding that it was shortly after that conversation that food was brought to them.

“The baby doesn’t drink formula. No matter how I try to give it, he won’t take it,” she explained, insisting that she has to eat well to produce enough milk.

Fearing that the trend will continue for the next two weeks, she said that she has made arrangements with her relatives to deliver food for her on the three days specified by health officials, which are Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays.

She said that there are approximately five other mothers at the quarantine facility.

Yesterday, Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton told the Observer that the arrangements for those being quarantined at hotels include a clean and secure environment.

“As it relates to mothers and their newborns, special provisions are made to ensure that we provide an additional cot for the child; that we provide an electric kettle, if you will, so that the child can get its meals on time, and normally the relatives of the persons who are staying here would [also provide assistance].

So we are more lenient in terms of allowing access based on the assessment of the need, and, clearly, if the child is needing medical care then the staff are here to provide the medical care, and if we have to expand and bring persons in to provide that care then that is also arranged,” the minister said.

Additionally, an health official, who requested anonymity, told the Observer that individuals arriving in the island who have “extenuating circumstances” can apply to be home quarantined.

The source noted, however, that health workers would have to visit the home and conduct an assessment before approval is granted.

Equally, others residing in the household would also have to be quarantined for a minimum of 14 days.

Yesterday, Prime Minister Andrew Holness apologised “to every returning citizens who has had to endure less that favourable conditions”.

Speaking to the Observer yesterday, obstetrician-gynaecologist Dr Jordan Hardie noted that nutrition is critical to the lactation process. The process, he said, consumes a lot of a nursing mother’s energy.

“So we generally advise a minimum of three meals, plus or minus two snacks. Their caloric requirements are usually calculated based on their body weight. A rough guide is somewhere between 1,800 to 2,000 kilocalories per day. We also advise meals from the various different food groups, so proteins, carbohydrates, fruits, vegetables, and at least two to three food groups per meal sitting. That patient also requires some fluid intake, so she would need to be at about probably 1.5 to two litres of fluid per day,” the physician said.

He said, in this regard, a balanced meal is required as opposed to one heavy in carbohydrates.

“It would be advisable that a nutritionist is contacted with regards to how the meals are put together. So even though it may not be the most palatable presentation, it is the food group representation that is important, and the amount of calories in a 24-hour sitting,” Dr Hardie said.

Nutritionist Dr Vanessa White- Barrow said while the meal is one aspect, in terms of balance, the area of concern from the perspective of a lactating mother is fatigue.

“A mother who’s lactating, once they’re feeling stress, their ability to produce milk adequately is going to decline. When you’re tired and stressed it does affect the quantity, that is the amount of breast milk that you produce. The child is pulling on your resources so you will feel hungry… if a mother is breastfeeding and the amount of milk she is producing drops, then the child might feel some frustration.

“But, to actually say that this is going to affect her, [no], because this is just a one-off episode. What you’d hope is that she’s going to be eating a little bit more frequently from now on,” White-Barrow said, adding that the nutrient profile of the milk will not change.

The mother told the Observer that it was difficult to adequately prepare for her return to the island, because of the manner in which things unfolded.

She said initially, she had applied to return home almost immediately after Foreign Affairs Minister Senator Kamina Johnson Smith announced the launch of the immigration portal on the www. jamcovid19.moh. gov.jm website on April 27, but received no response.

The portal is being used to facilitate the applications of Jamaicans seeking to return to the island following the closure of the country’s border on March 24 to combat the spread of COVID-19.

“I applied again, but this time I told them that I just had a baby and that I was running out of funds. A few days later they replied, and on [last] Friday they sent me an e-mail saying I was granted permission to be booked into the Courtyard [by] Marriott at JFK (John F Kennedy International Airport), and that I’d be staying there for a few days,” she said, noting that she had been staying in New Jersey up to that point.

The mother described her hotel stay as “okay” and indicated that travel back to the island, too, went well.

“The only thing is that I wish there was a bit more social distancing, especially because of the baby,” she said.

Up to press time last evening, the mother said that she had not yet been tested for COVID-19.

More than 200 stranded Jamaicans returned from the United States and Canada on Wednesday.

Their accommodation, along with that of more than 100 Jamaicans who returned from the United Kingdom last week, is expected to cost $64 million.

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