COVID-19 in Jamaica: Another Community Under Surveillance

On Friday afternoon (June 26) the Western Regional Health Authority began surveillance for COVID-19 in the community of Norwood, St. James, just outside Montego Bay. The Ministry of Health and Wellness reported:

The Western Regional Health Authority (WRHA) this afternoon began community surveillance activity in Norwood, St. James. This comes on the heels of confirmation of several positive COVID-19 cases. The index case has been isolated in a government facility and so far 13 close contacts were tested, which resulted in seven positives, two negatives and four samples are pending.

Extensive surveillance is currently being carried out by some 40 members of the healthcare team including nurses, public health inspectors, public health nurses and community health aides. The team has begun house-to-house visits and assessing the residents for respiratory symptoms. Residents with symptoms and those who the health team deem are at high risk, will be tested for COVID-19 and quarantine orders served.

The Ministry noted that these activities took place up to Saturday evening, with 100 samples collected and 35 households assessed. We await further updates when the exercise is completed. According to the Health Ministry, “The health team is on the ground in the community going house-to-house, doing temperature checks and swabbing of residents to determine their status. In the cases linked to the community, eight are imported and seven import related.”

Public health workers in Norwood, St. James. (Photo: Gleaner)

Meanwhile in West Kingston, some 721 persons were interviewed and 137 samples collected and sent to the National Public Health Laboratory for testing. Surveillance activities were conducted last Thursday and Friday, and health officials took the opportunity to do some badly needed on best practices to prevent the virus from spreading.

Although the health authorities are trying to make test results available to residents in the shortest possible time, I am somewhat puzzled that the number of samples tested daily has only increased a little, while the number of “results pending” has increased (now at 84). This, despite the numbers of incoming travelers, both tourists and Jamaicans, arriving daily on the island – and now these two problematic communities, where it would appear that “imported cases” have caused local spread. Is the Public Health Laboratory adequately equipped and staffed?

Members of the public are encouraged to remain vigilant in the practice of infection prevention and control measures. These include:

  •   the wearing of masks while in public or while at home under quarantine with family members;
  •   sanitising frequently used surfaces and/or common areas in the home and at work;
  •   frequently washing hands with soap and water and/or sanitising hands with an alcohol-based sanitiser; as well as
  •   maintaining a six-feet physical distance from others.

“All of these measures are important if we are to limit the amount of people who become exposed and eventually infected,” noted Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Dr. Jacquiline Bisasor-McKenzie. “I am aware that for some people, wearing a mask is perhaps not the most comfortable thing. If you cannot tolerate the mask, then you must stay out of crowded situations,” she added.

“The truth is, it can and does take a bit of sacrifice from us all to help to keep ourselves, our families and our friends safe from COVID-19. However, preventing multiple infections, preventing community lockdowns and further restrictions and saving even one life is worth your effort. Let us do what it takes to help as many people as possible remain COVID-19-free,” the CMO said further.


A flight with 238 Jamaicans aboard was due to arrive this afternoon. The Jamaicans have been stranded in various countries (China, Japan, Belgium, Indonesia, Japan, Thailand, UAE, Kuwait, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and Tanzania) and are being brought back all on one flight. Foreign Affairs Minister Senator Kamina Johnson Smith called this a “miracle flight,” thanking all the diplomats worldwide who had made it possible. (Photo: Twitter)

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