15 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Ja, health authorities ‘following’ 434 persons

Minister of Health and Wellness Dr Christopher Tufton (centre) is flanked by Permanent Secretary Dunstan Bryan (left) and Chief Medical Officer Dr Jacquiline Bisasor-Mckenzie. (Photo: JIS)

The Ministry of Health and Wellness has added two more positive tests of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) on the island—bringing Jamaica’s confirmed number to 15 cases.

Dunstan Bryan, Permanent Secretary in the ministry, said on Wednesday (March 18) that the National Influenza Centre conducted 11 tests from samples collected, the remaining nine returned negative.

Bryan also confirmed the island’s first coronavirus-related death, a 79-year-old Jamaican male with a travel history from New York. The man, who reported with symptoms of the disease in Clarendon on Monday (March 16), died before he could be transferred to the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI) in Kingston. The patient suffered from multiple pre-existing conditions such as diabetes and hypertension, which led to his condition deteriorating rapidly.

According to the Health Ministry, the second positive test from Wednesday is linked to the patient one, the island’s first case of COVID-19.

Bryan, speaking at the now-daily press conferences at Jamaica House, said that the ministry is awaiting results from a further six tests by the National Influenza Centre.

Breaking down the situation report from Jamaica’s COVID-19 response, the permanent secretary said that some 458 persons have entered the island from a country of interest affected by the pandemic since January 31.

Bryan explained that to date, 29 persons are currently in quarantine in government facilities, another 91 are observing quarantine protocols at home, and 28 are being isolated at government hospitals across the island.

Chief Medical Officer Jacquiline Bisasor-Mckenzie further indicated that contact tracing is being conducted by the ministry in several parishes simultaneously.

So far, only St Thomas and Westmoreland remain unaffected by COVID-19 in Jamaica.

“We can advise in terms of the contacts being followed, across the different parishes, come out of the interviews that have been conducted around the communities that confirmed cases are coming from. So, while there may have been several more persons interviewed, we have narrowed down to the true contacts that we are following,” she told members of the media.

See the Ministry of Health and Wellness’ parish breakdown below:

  • Clarendon: 21 persons
  • Hanover: 2 persons
  • Kingston and St Andrew: 224 persons
  • Manchester: 2 persons
  • Portland: 6 persons
  • St Ann: 26 persons
  • St Catherine: 9 individuals
  • St Elizabeth: 5 persons
  • St James: 114 persons
  • St Mary: 22 persons
  • Trelawny: 2 individuals

“A total of 434 persons [are] presently being followed. Some persons may have dropped off this list because they were [initially] symptomatic, were tested and [found to be] negative and were pulled out,” Dr Bisasor-Mckenzie contended. “These are persons that the parish health teams are following up on a regular basis to determine if they have any symptoms.”

Dr Bisasor-Mckenzie further noted that an additional 32 symptomatic contacts were identified by the ministry. They are being followed closely, with some placed in isolation and tests conducted.