Jamaica could see COVID-19 spike during festive season

Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr Christopher Tufton, says Jamaica could see a spike in cases of COVID-19 in the New Year due to the increase in the number of persons visiting the island for the upcoming festive season.

Dr Christopher Tufton

Addressing the Ministry’s weekly virtual press conference on Thursday (November 19), Tufton said data from the Norman Manley International Airport show that approximately 33,500 passengers are projected to arrive there for the month of November, and another 43,386 in December.

“Given the traditions of Christmas, we will see a spike come January.”

— Tufton

“We saw what happened with an increase in the number of travellers [when we re-opened 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.

“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.

Exercise caution

Chief Medical Officer, Dr Jacquiline Bisasor-McKenzie, said that as Jamaica approaches the festive season “every Jamaican has to be a policeman” in terms of monitoring travellers and celebrations.

“The Minister has indicated that we are expecting to see a surge in our numbers at Christmas… and probably taking us into January if we are not careful.

“The fact is that we are now [expecting] over 30,000 persons entering the country during November and over 40,000 expected in December, so that’s a lot of traffic. The majority of these persons are coming from countries where there are increasing numbers, and we are seeing the spikes [in those countries] getting higher and higher,” she noted.

Dr Bisasor-McKenzie pointed out that many persons will return to Jamaica for the thanksgiving holiday on November 26, and so the increase in the number of COVID-19 cases could start from there.

“Whichever way it happens, in terms of the traffic, it is clear at this time that we are expecting to see a surge and, therefore, Jamaicans need to take all the precautions to prevent vulnerable persons from being exposed, so we can decrease the hospitalisations and the risk of deaths,” she said.