Jamaica tightens COVID-19 measures as hospitals cross max capacity

Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness speaks during a press briefing on 9 Aug., where he announced additional COVID-19 restrictions. - Photo: Donald De La Haye, via Jamaica Information Service

Jamaicans will face increased curfew hours and stricter measures starting Wednesday, 11 Aug., as the country’s hospitals grapple with a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness, in a virtual press briefing on Monday night, announced the new restrictions after the country – one Cayman’s closest neighbours – saw “rapid increases” in the number of cases and hospitalisations.

Holness stated that from 1-13 July, Jamaica recorded a daily average of 52 cases, which has now “skyrocketed to 238 cases daily in August” – five times the daily average of seen in the first two weeks of July.

“For the first eight days of August, Jamaica has recorded 1,903 new cases, in comparison to 1,572 new cases for the entire month of June,” the prime minister said.

Jamaica’s Minister of Health Dr. Christopher Tufton, speaking at the same briefing, also announced that the government had activated field hospitals to increase the number of beds available for COVID-19 patients.

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Holness pleaded for Jamaicans to get vaccinated, and called on residents to “act responsibly” as they can control the spread of the virus by how they behave socially.

“It would appear that we may have a longer stretch in the pandemic and… this action of closing down, curfew hours… is not feasible for much longer. The only feasible option is for us to take the vaccine,” he said.

Holness said, after vaccinations ramped up this month, that he had been optimistic that by the end of the year Jamaica would have been “seeing the light at the end of the tunnel”, but the ongoing surge in cases is making that target unlikely.

The experts, he said, pointed out that the virus is being “cultivated in the unvaccinated population by virtue of them being able to host the virus in greater load and being more infected”.

On Monday, Jamaica recorded 316 new cases in 24 hours. The overall number of confirmed cases was 55,456. Ten people died Monday, bringing the death toll to 1,241.

As of today, Tuesday, 10 Aug., according to the Jamaica Gleaner, 240,472 had received the first dose of the vaccine, and 131,554 had received their second doses, and 885 had received vaccines that contained a single-dose.

At present, according to Ourworldindata.org, 4.5% of the Jamaican population is fully vaccinated and the government is aiming to vaccinate 65% of the population by March 2022.

Hospitals stretched

The country’s hospitals are reached and passed their maximum capacity, as cases continue to climb.

The Gleaner reported that the University Hospital of the West Indies is at 100% capacity; Cornwall Regional Hospital was at 110%; Spanish Town Hospital was at 160% and Savanna-la-Mar Hospital was 167%, among others.

Holness has ordered the closure of all nightclubs and entertainment centres.
“No small or large events, for example, concerts, parties, tailgate parties, round robins, will be permitted. No permits will be issued for any events. All events which are illegally held will be closed by the police,” a Facebook post on the prime minister’s official page said.
New curfew hours will be introduced Wednesday, 11 Aug., and are scheduled to continue until the end of the month. The curfew will be in place from 7pm to 5am Mondays to Fridays; 6pm to 5am on Saturdays; and 2pm to 5am on Sundays.
The prime minister warned that while the government has not yet implemented a “no movement day”, it was possible that this may be introduced in two weeks’ time “if the numbers do not show signs of improving”.
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