COVID-19 updates from Jamaica (January 8, 2022)

As Omicron is flying around the world at lightning speed, so it is in Jamaica. The problem with our island, though, is that the vast majority of our population is not vaccinated (close to 80 percent) despite vaccines being widely available (that is, AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, and Sinopharm).

According to the Reuters Coronavirus Tracker, Jamaica is “at peak and rising” and reports its largest number of new COVID-19 infections since the start of the pandemic. Meanwhile here are the numbers for yesterday (January 7, 2022):

Worryingly, the number of hospitalizations, and of those moderately and seriously ill, is steadily increasing.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health and Wellness held another thorough press briefing last week, on which I have not yet reported. However, since then it has put out some important information, which I am sharing below.

Minister Tufton speaking at the press briefing on January 6.

Minister of Health & Wellness Christopher Tufton is urging Jamaicans not to take the Omicron variant lightly, but to ensure that they remain vigilant in the practice of the infection prevention and control measures against COVID-19, including vaccination. He commented at the press briefing:

I have observed a narrative, where persons are downplaying the omicron variant, describing it as mild. However, with over 70% of the population unvaccinated, it is critical that Jamaicans continue to observe the COVID-19 protocols, as this variant is more contagious, which will mean more Jamaicans will catch the virus and invariably, hospitalization and death will increase.

“We have put measures in place for our public health system to respond, but do also want to caution Jamaicans not to grow complacent at this time of vulnerability. Along with the practice handwashing or sanitizing, mask-wearing, physical distancing and avoiding crowds, we continue to champion vaccination as critical tool to minimize severity of illness, hospitalization and death associated with COVID-19.”

To receive a COVID-19 vaccine, members of the public may visit the more than 250 access points across the island.

Booster doses are on offer at permanent vaccination sites. Members of the public, in particular the elderly, and people living with a chronic illness, such as diabetes and hypertension, should get their booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccines to help to prevent severe illness and death. Persons who are immunocompromised should also receive an additional dose of the vaccines.

Meanwhile, the South East Regional Health Authority (SERHA) wishes to advise members of the public with symptoms of COVID-19 to get tested immediately. Some of the health facilities in SERHA offer Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) testing, which is free of cost to the public.   

You should make an appointment for PCR testing in Kingston and St. Andrew by calling the Emergency Operations Centre for the Health Department at 876 926-1550-2 or call (876) 317-9680-1. Persons may also send an email ksahd.eoc@ksahd.com

Walk-in testing is available at the Morant Bay Health Centre, St. Thomas from Monday to Friday at 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. In addition, persons are being asked to make an appointment for testing in St. Catherine by calling the Health Department’s Emergency Operations Centre at (876) 547-5791.

The health departments will make contact with individuals to give them their results which usually take 3 to 4 working days after tests are conducted. The release forms are also obtained from the health departments.

And finally, on accreditation of testing sites:

The Ministry is reminding the public that the Jamaica National Agency for Accreditation (JANAAC), an agency of the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce, is the only local entity with the responsibility to accredit laboratories to conduct COVID-19 testing.

Private laboratories are advised to visit the JANAAC website at www.janaac.gov.jm for information on accreditation for COVID-19 testing. The list of accredited entities is on the JANAAC website, where members of the public can verify whether the lab they wish to engage for testing has been approved to conduct COVID-19 testing.

That is where we stand. I wish us all luck.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Andrew Holness has called a press briefing for tomorrow (Sunday, January 9) at 10:00 a.m. I understand it will be all about our unbearable crime wave. COVID-19 is one of our other burdens. We have put both of them back on our shoulders for 2022.


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