Jamaican Government Braces for COVID-19 Spike During the Holidays

As a consequence of the current COVID-19 wave in the United States along with the influx of Jamaicans that will travel home for Christmas, the island’s health ministry is now preparing for a rise in cases.

The health and Wellness Minister, Dr. Christopher Tufton says that over the last few weeks, the island has successfully managed to flatten the curve of the second wave, which was at its peak in September. During a weekly press briefing of the ministry of health, the Minister warned that another huge spike in cases looms over the Christmas season because of the increase in travel.

“We saw what happened with an increase in the number of travellers [when we reopened our borders] in June. We had some 14,426 passengers coming into Norman Manley, up from 3,778 in May. In July, we had 37,638 passengers and in August, 47,564 passengers through Norman Manley alone. Greater numbers of persons visiting our shores means that the probability of an increase in infection also will go up,” he pointed out.

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“Given the traditions of Christmas, we will see a spike come January. Of course, a lot depends on how we manage the situation,” he said while appealing for persons to adhere to the health protocols.

In the meantime, the island’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr Jacquiline Bisasor McKenzie, has strongly advised members of the diaspora who plan to visit the island to limit their movement, saying that a regular Christmas cannot happen on the island this year.

“It is very important that the persons that are coming in decrease the amount of movement that they are going to be having during their period here. We are advocating for a family Christmas so people can come into the country and see their family. But the amount of movement a person would normally have at that time, we’re saying now is not the time for it,” she said.

The CMO advised that the spike will not be as great if the amount of expected movement around the Thanksgiving holidays occurs later, but “still, the spike would be four or five times greater than what we experienced in August — still pretty significant, still beyond the capacity of our system to manage,” she said.

Jamaica now has over 10,000 COVID-19 cases, with over 5,000 recoveries. The positivity rate now stands at 8 percent, down from 14 percent at the highest point.

The declaration from the health ministry comes as the nation awaits the Government’s decision on whether restrictions to prevent the spread of the virus will be relaxed for the festive season.

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