Madam Speaker, based on the information received from the Ministry of Health and Wellness, I wish to report that Jamaica has now recorded 11,875 cases of COVID-19. Of this number, 3,234 are active cases. This means that these are persons who contracted the virus and who are still able to transmit it to others.

Information provided by the Ministry also clearly indicates that we have begun to see an upward turn in the epidemiological curve. As you will recall, from previous presentations by the Minister of Health and Wellness, there was an anticipation that we would see a spike in cases going into the Christmas season. It was anticipated by the clinical team in the Ministry that this would begin to occur approximately two weeks after the Thanksgiving Holidays in the United States which is the start of the travel season for many Jamaicans who are expected to return home. The curve however shows that this upturn has started well before the 15th which was the anticipated timeline for the increase in cases.

Madam Speaker, the Minister of Health and Wellness, in his Statement to Parliament on Tuesday last, indicated that we are seeing very troubling signs in the Western section of the island. A major hotspot is the parish of Westmoreland, where increasing cases coupled with increasing hospitalizations and deaths is a cause for grave concern.

To date, Madam Speaker, the parish has recorded 117 active cases, with 76 new cases last week. These cases are spread over 80% of the communities in the Parish.

Madam Speaker, the Parish recorded a test positivity rate of 32.1% last week compared with 17.6%, the week before. This means that approximately 1 out of 3 persons tested were positive for COVID-19. This is over three times the national positivity rate of 9.3% for that week.

The Savanna-la–Mar Hospital was at 87% of capacity yesterday; 15 of 18 COVID beds are occupied; and the hospital is reporting 18-20 persons in the Emergency Department waiting on beds on the existing wards.

Of the 4 Hospitals that support the Western Region, that is, Cornwall Regional, Falmouth, Savanna-la-Mar and Noel Holmes all are now at 80 – 90% bed occupancy.

Madam Speaker, these troubling trends and the strain on the health system requires immediate action to mitigate the real harm that can occur. The Government of Jamaica has, since the beginning of the pandemic, relied heavily on empirical information for decision-making. This strategic position has served us well and has resulted in us making the right decisions. The evidence is before us and there is a clear need to act. While the Emergency Operations Centre for the region is on high alert and resources would have been redeployed to mitigate the situation in Westmoreland, capacity is still under severe strain.

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