STAY HOME: Worst-case projection sees Jamaican COVID-19 infections double every two days

Chief Medical Officer in the Ministry of Health and Wellness Jacquiline Bisasor McKenzie

Jamaicans are being urged not to be complacent, and warnings from a top Ministry of Health and Wellness official paint a bleak picture that if persons continue to interact with each other in these early stages, cases of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) could spike dramatically in the coming days.

Chief Medical Officer Jacquiline Bisasor McKenzie, armed with the latest projections at a press conference at Jamaica House on Monday (March 30), said that if the rate of infection is allowed to deteriorate further, cases would double every two days in the worst-case scenario.

A total of five projections were tabulated by the ministry with scenarios contributing to a doubling of the number of cases at every ten-, eight-, five-, three- and two-day interval. At the island’s current rate, confirmed cases of COVID-19 double every eight days.

However, Bisasor McKenzie argued that while the present rate of infection is within the scope of frontline workers tackling the outbreak, the situation gets markedly worse as the curve steepens.

“I want to really caution the population that this is the time where we have to be extremely vigilant. We have been doing pretty well so far, but I want the population to realise that we now have 36 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in [Jamaica],” she began.

“We have a lot of persons who have come into the country, who may not be self-quarantining themselves and these persons pose a great risk for the numbers to shoot up,” the CMO noted further.

Bisasor McKenzie stressed that despite the situation seeming to be improved, with so many possible means of infection, the assumption could be a fatal mistake.

“If you do not take action now, then things have the potential to get worse. Right now, we are following a trajectory that is looking at a doubling of the number of cases approximately every eight days. If we continue along this trajectory then we will keep our cases reasonably [low], we will continue to keep the curve flat,” she said.

If persons do not stay at home, the CMO warned, “our numbers are going to go up”.

You might be wondering: How bad could it get? Well, answering that hypothetical question, Bisasor McKenzie said that at its worst, Jamaica could arrive at 4,608 confirmed cases by Sunday, April 12.

Projections provided by the Ministry of Health and Wellness in Jamaica.

“We may look good now, but this is the time that every single Jamaican has to be urgently ensuring they stay home, that their family members stay home, that their neighbours stay home. Everyone needs to do their part to keep us on the eight-day doubling trajectory and even to lower that,” Bisasor McKenzie maintained.

More from the projections can be seen below:

  • Doubling of cases every 10 days: If cases are at 36 on Sunday (March 29), then by April 12 the island would have 101 persons confirmed infected.
  • Doubling of cases every eight days: If cases are at 36 on Sunday, then by April 12 the island would have 126 persons confirmed infected.
  • Doubling of cases every five days: If cases are at 36 on Sunday, then by April 12 the island would have 259 persons confirmed infected.
  • Doubling of cases every three days: If cases are at 36 on Sunday, then by April 12 the island would have 1,024 persons confirmed infected.
  • Doubling of cases every two days: If cases are at 36 on Sunday, they by April 12 the would have 4,608 persons confirmed infected.

In the meantime, while expressing confidence in the level of testing conducted, Health Minister Christopher Tufton said that efforts are underway to raise Jamaica’s capability from 20 per cent.

Minister of Health and Wellness Christopher Tufton

Understanding the concerns about whether the national response has been under testing, Tufton assured that the methods are being reviewed constantly.

“We are satisfied that we have a good sense of the virus in the population, nevertheless, there are some new methods of testing which would see us increasing the capacity to test. The extraction process at the National Influenza Centre is being automated for greater efficiency and this will increase the number up to 100 tests per day,” Tufton asserted.

“The National Public Health Lab is installing a Cobas6800 machine; [in] the next three weeks, equipment and training of staff will be completed, and the facility will be able to expand testing capacity to up to 380 samples per eight-hour day. Right now, we’re using less than 20 per cent of our testing capacity,” he added.

Tufton explained that in the coming weeks additional methods, including mobile testing for each parish, would be rolled out.