Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton, is warning that stricter restrictions will be imposed on Westmoreland to effect change, if residents do not adhere to measures implemented to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
This, as over the last month, the number of confirmed cases in the parish has moved from 245 to 460. In the last two weeks, more than 100 new confirmed cases have been recorded.
Dr. Tufton said based on the surveillance of the National Epidemiological Team, the Ministry of Health and Wellness has begun to see a very worrying trend in the western half of the island, and in particular, Westmoreland.
“When we look at the deaths, within Westmoreland alone, we have had 22 deaths overall – 12 of those recorded in the last two weeks. Our surveillance at the hospital that serves the parish also shows a worrying trend, with COVID admissions increasing steadily over the last three months,” he noted.
He informed that for October, there were 23 admissions and for November, there were 55 admissions, which is a 100 per cent increase in one month.
Speaking in the House of Representatives on December 8, Dr. Tufton noted that Westmoreland is demonstrating community spread that has the potential to increase further over the December to January period.
“We are seeing an increase in cases, an increase in hospitalisations and an increase in deaths,” he said.
In response to the data, the Ministry of Health & Wellness, through the Western Regional Health Authority and the Parish Health Department, has utilised several modalities to increase awareness and stimulate behaviour change.
These include public awareness and testing in the transport centres, the town centres, churches, health facilities, schools, workplaces, markets and in the business district.
“We have made three community interventions over the last two weeks. In Savanna-la-Mar, 104 persons were tested, with 13 found positive. In Little London, 102 persons were tested, 19 of whom returned positive results. In Grange Hill, 100 persons were tested, 16 of whom were found to be positive. This gives us an average positivity rate of 15 per cent,” Dr. Tufton informed.
The Minister said when the surveillance map for the parish is examined, almost 80 per cent of all communities are showing active cases, with persons showing varying degrees of severity of illness – from asymptomatic to requiring transfer to the intensive care units of the Cornwall Regional Hospital and the University Hospital of the West Indies.
Dr. Tufton pointed out that these cases are being triggered by careless behaviour and lack of adherence to infection prevention and control measures.
He noted that the young persons within these communities are actively engaging in social interactions, exposing themselves to the virus and taking it home to their older relatives, who are becoming ill and are dying.
The Minister added that based on the on-the-ground information provided by the police and the local health team, most of the infections are driven by illegal parties hosted at bars and corner shops, nine nights and wakes, and the infamous bike parties that move from community to community.
“This indiscipline threatens all of our efforts and could, ultimately, erode the gains we have made over the last several months to contain the spread and reduce our rate of infection,” Dr. Tufton said.
He added that the situation is a clear and present danger to the efforts of the Ministry of Health and Wellness and the entire country to not only flatten the curve, but also to ensure that “we are able to prevent the overwhelming of the public health system”.