Jamaica on high alert for Delta variant of COVID-19
While there is no empirical evidence of the Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus being on Jamaica’s shores, officials at the Ministry of Health & Wellness say they are quite concerned and are maintaining a close eye on the situation, especially given that two of the country’s largest trading partners – the United States and the United Kingdom – are now battling the deadly strain.
What’s more, Prime Minister Andrew Holness, on Wednesday, warned that the COVID-19 containment measures that were eased a few weeks ago could once again be tightened if the country’s positivity rate continues to trend up.
Up to Friday, Jamaica’s positivity rate stood at 8.4 per cent. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that the positivity rate should be steady at five per cent or lower for 14 days before countries or regions reopen.
Holness said Cabinet had received a report from the health ministry showing an uptick in the COVID-19 infection rate as well as hospitalisations.
“There is a concern for us as we look at our major partners where 50 per cent of the cases in America and 90 per cent of the cases in the UK are due to the Delta variant, but we continue to monitor by ensuring that we do the genomic testing,” permanent secretary in the Health & Wellness Ministry, Dunstan Bryan, told The Sunday Gleaner yesterday.
Jamaica currently does not have the capacity to test for the Delta variant, with samples being sent overseas to be tested, the permanent secretary said.
Pressed on whether the health ministry is keen on having the containment restrictions reinstituted, Bryan said it remains “a matter for the Cabinet,” but that the ministry continues to focus on the vaccination drive which is now targeting persons due their second dose.
Up to Friday, Jamaica recorded 63 new cases of COVID-19, from 695 samples tested, bringing the total to 51,046 cases.
Meanwhile, several countries have been reimposing tighter COVID-19 measures amid a spike in the number of cases and deaths, mainly attributed to the Delta variant.
In the Caribbean, Barbados is among the countries with new stringent containment measures.
Jamaica’s health ministry’s vigilance comes amid the granting of a host of approvals for entertainment events, with Dream Weekend, organised by Dream Entertainment, set to take place in a few weeks.
Local entertainment players have been clamouring for the reopening of the industry as they struggle to maintain their livelihoods. However, the fear that these events could become superspreaders, especially since many patrons traditionally arrive from overseas, remains an ever-present concern.
Last week, Local Government Minister Desmond McKenzie also revealed that there have been as many as 600 illegal parties since the Government extended the curfew hours on July 14.