Progression of the Epidemic
It has now been 70 days since our first case of COVID-19 on March 10, 2020. I am pleased to report that we had no new confirmed cases over the last 24 hours and there are 4 additional persons who have recovered and been released. This means that we now have 520 confirmed cases, with 131 recoveries and 9 deaths. Therefore, there are currently 380 active cases.
The graph displayed shows that after our first one hundred cases, we were briefly on the 6-day doubling curve and then moved to 8-day, 10-day, 12-day and now we are now approaching the 15-day doubling curve. If we did not have the workplace cluster, we would be tracking the 30-day doubling curve.
From the 21st of April, the Government of Jamaica wrote to the Royal Caribbean Cruise Line expressing our willingness to explore the possibilities for the repatriation of Jamaican ship workers. Since then we have been exchanging communications about how and when this would be done.
Twice in Parliament I was asked about preparation for cruise ships, on both occasions, I explained that preparations were being made and that these were resource intensive activities, the details of which were not finalized and therefore we would not discuss them openly.
On Friday last, RCCL requested a conference call to make final arrangements. This morning I had conversations with the President and CEO, Mr. Michael Bayley and Raphael Benford.
Despite postings in social media and attempts by third parties to mislead and confuse; the negotiations between RCCL and the Jamaican Government continue with positive results. Today Cabinet approved specific protocols related to the re-entry of this ship, the Anthem of the Seas which will repatriate the largest number of Jamaicans at any one time to date.
• We have now given approval for the Royal Caribbean cruise ship to arrive in Falmouth at noon tomorrow.
• The Ministry of Health and Wellness will create a sterile zone around the port to conduct testing
• The cruise ship workers will be disembarked in groups of 200 every 48-72 hours and taken to Bahia Principe. They will each be tested and the 48-72 hour period is to allow time for the results to be available. We have secured 400 additional rooms at Bahia Principe to facilitate this phased disembarkation.
• Persons whose tests are positive will be moved into a state quarantine facility until they recover. All others will be allowed to go home and self-quarantine for a further period to 14 days from the date of disembarkation. The home quarantine period will end 14 days after disembarkation.
• Persons allowed to quarantine at home will need to consent to have their location tracked using their smartphones using the jamcovid19 app and to video check in multiple times a day while in quarantine.
In addition to the Royal Caribbean workers, we have nearly 900 additional Jamaican cruise ship workers who we are working hard to get back home as soon as possible. It is important for the public to appreciate that this situation and the challenges are not unique to Jamaica. There are over 100,000 ship workers from around the world that are still trapped on ships trying to get back to their home countries.
The Government’s objective clearly is to bring home our citizens as fast as possible, but we must do so in a manner that is safe both for the Jamaicans returning and Jamaicans here on island. Therefore, the pace at which we can take our citizens back is a function of the capacity of our public health system to cope with the tremendous requirements that each incoming cohort places on the system.
We have seen the negative outcome and discomfort caused to the last cohort of repatriated Jamaicans, when we make well intentioned decisions without sufficient resources in place to properly execute.
Home Quarantine Solution
We now have over 8,000 applications on the jamcovid platform from Jamaicans who wish to return home. This includes the 1,000+ on the Royal Caribbean cruise ship.
We are in the advanced stages of developing a home quarantine monitoring solution that will involve the use of tracking devices and will be integrated with the jamcovid19 mobile app. The Ministry of Health and Wellness is in the process of finalising its protocols for home quarantine which will include testing on arrival.
We expect that the technology as well as the protocols will be fully in place in a matter of weeks. We should then be in a position to accept larger numbers.
St Mary Quarantine
The communities Dover, Enfield and Annotto Bay were placed under Quarantine on May 7 for two weeks. During the period, contact tracing was enhanced and in total 130 samples were collected from contacts – two were positive bringing the total positives to 16. All confirmed persons and close contacts are isolated within state facilities.
Fever and Respiratory Surveillance were conducted in these communities over the period at least twice with over 2000 household visits and over 7000 assessments done. Persons with symptoms were tested and these results are so far negative. A total of 118 samples were collected.
A batch of 82 samples was collected yesterday and we await those results.
Essentially the quarantine and surveillance of the community has yielded a further two positive tests. Based on these outcomes, the quarantine will be lifted at the end of the two-week period. Community surveillance will continue in the affected communities and Influenza Like Illnesses (ILI) and Severe Acute Respiratory Infections (SARI) surveillance will continue in all health facilities.
Back to Work
The current work-from-home orders will expire at the end of May. We intend to allow persons other than our vulnerable population (persons aged 65 and over, persons with comorbidities, etc), will be allowed to return to work effective June 1.
Of course, all the normal infection prevention and safety protocols would need to be in place. The various protocols for factories, workplaces, banking halls, etc. are being developed in conjunction with the PSOJ.