Tufton sees positive COVID movements

Dr Christopher Tufton, the health minister, says that based on the health ministry’s epidemiological assessment, there has been some movement in the right direction concerning the novel coronavirus pandemic.

“Our reproductive rate over the last four weeks have moved from 1.3 per cent to 0.9 per cent, which is a clear indication of the slowing down of the spread of the disease,” he said.

“Our positivity rate has fallen from a high of 42 per cent to the reported 15.7 per cent in today’s [Wednesday’s] report. This represents the lowest positivity rate in over eight weeks. These are indeed hopeful indicators that, once again, we have been able to beat back the surge in COVID-19 cases,” he told the House of Representatives.

An additionional 165 COVID-19 cases and seven deaths were reported Thursday from tests done Wednesday. The country’s COVID-19 tally has moved to 44,502, while 20,17o have recovered. The death toll is now 751.

Dr Tufton said that the reduction in the number of cases was primarily due to the many sacrifices that have been made by Jamaicans.

“[There have been] sacrifices at the individual, the family, the community, the organisation and at the national levels. These sacrifices have resulted in many hardships for the men and women who have had to give up their livelihoods and bear the economic brunt of lockdowns and other restrictions on movement,” he pointed out.

He said that the entire team at the Ministry of Health and Wellness had taken note of the outcomes and are very mindful of the negative effects that the necessary actions have caused.

Turning to the vaccination programme, Dr Tufton said that based on the recent review done by CNN on the pace of vaccination across the world, Jamaica’s programme is lagging. However, he said the country could boast a health system that is equal in capacity to any in the world.

“Based on this report, vaccine coverage figures, Jamaica is the only country in the world that has given vaccine to five per cent of its population in just 37 days,” he said.

On the threat of different strains, Tufton said that, strategically, Jamaica has sought to ensure the protection of its population through testing for the different strains within the population.

He said that based on the information, the ministry has been notified of the presence of the UK strain which had resulted in its implementation of the travel restrictions.

“At this time, there is no evidence that this strain has become the most dominant in the population. The Ministry of Health and Wellness continues to send samples to CARPHA [Caribbean Public Health Agency] to complete assessments, however, the results can be lengthy and we are therefore required to again look to build capacity within the country to complete genomic testing, so that we can screen for variants of the virus within the population,” he said.

He acknowledged the support of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the US administration for their support with the financing of equipment for the National Public Health Laboratory to do testing. Additional technical support, he said, was being provided in the capacity development of local staff in conducting genomic testing and the analysis of results for decision-making.

More than US$350,000 has been committed to this activity that is slated to be completed within the next 3-4 months, Dr Tufton said.

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