Jamaican doctor expresses alarm at COVID rise, says country ‘not in control of outbreak’

Jamaican doctor Phillip Coombs. (Photo: Instagram @drphillipcoombs)

Dr Phillips Coombs, a surgical resident at the Kingston Public Hospital (KPH), says the alarming rate at which Jamaica is confirming new cases of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) could be a signal the island is no longer in control of the outbreak.

In a viral Instagram TV video on Saturday (August 23), Coombs, while insisting he’s not slamming the Ministry of Health and Wellness, which has done commendably well to contain the pandemic in Jamaica, argued that the rise in new cases is suggesting that community spread among citizens is climbing.

“I took an oath as a medical doctor to first, do no harm to any of my patients, and I feel it is my responsibility to encourage every single Jamaican to be wise about their decision[s] and about COVID-19,” he began.

It is an especially frightening prospect as both the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and the People’s National Party (PNP) intensify their campaigns ahead of the September 3 general election, Coombs argued.

“The Prime Minister has called elections on September 3rd; over the past 24 hours, there [have] been 46 new cases of coronavirus in Jamaica. We have officially lost control of COVID-19,” the doctor concluded.

“There is now community spread, we’re not able to trace where people are getting the infection from. Not just that, having a [political] campaign at this time has disregarded all the protocols that the government has tried to put into place to protect and to prevent persons to getting COVID-19,” he added.

Dr Coombs, in his video that has since made it to Facebook and Twitter, asserted that the public health system has come under added strain following a flare-up in political unrest.

“Not only is COVID-19 a threat, but the hospitals are getting overwhelmed with more accidents, more trauma [cases], because of political unrest,” he posited.

When mi talk it unnu se a politics mi a play. Maybe when unnu hear one doctor talk it unnu will listen. The doctor says we have officially lost control of COVID 19.

Posted by Kamla The Ripe Mango on Saturday, August 22, 2020

Coombs reiterated that he speaks from his perspective as a doctor, that the general election may not have been ‘the wisest decision’ as Jamaicans gather in larger numbers, often absent face masks, and flout social distancing recommendations in favour of political flare, rallies and motorcades.

“I’m not affiliated with any particular party, I am just looking out for the general population of Jamaica. We’re speaking about a virus; a virus that has the potential to kill people. We are now campaigning, in numbers greater than 250 without masks, without social distancing. For what?” Combs asked.

“Is that the best decision for Jamaica right now? So, Dr Coombs here, humbly suggesting the government reconsider the approach to general election. Think about the Jamaican people, the hospitals; think about us as doctors. We are sacrificing our wellbeing every day to protect our country, think about this,” he added.

The video exists in two versions, the first of which was shared extensively, before Coombs indicated that it was unedited and released without his knowledge or authorisation.

In a statement accompanying the second, shortened video, Coombs said that he was merely appealing to Jamaicans to abide by the already established protocols to prevent further spread of COVID-19.

Photo: Instagram @drphillipcoombs

The statement in full reads as follows:

“I must say I regret the fact that an unedited version of this video was released earlier today without my knowledge and authorization.

Firstly, let me commend @themohwgovjm for the hard efforts that they have made in trying to contain and manage this pandemic.

My intentions in this video is solely to appeal to the people of Jamaica to continue abiding by the protocols set by our government to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

I would also like to advocate for a peaceful and violent-free election period.”

See also, the second version of Coombs’ video below:

As at the time of publication, Jamaica confirmed another 67 cases of COVID-19, bringing the national tally to 1,416.