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The Ministry of Health and Wellness is expressing concern about the uptick in the number of active coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in Western Jamaica.

Speaking during a Digital Press Conference and COVID-19 Conversations at the S Hotel, Montego Bay, St. James, on November 26, National Epidemiologist, Dr. Karen Webster-Kerr, said the increase was observed over the last seven days, with the parish of Hanover recording the highest number of active cases.

She pointed out that there is concern for Westmoreland, Hanover, St. James, St. Ann and Trelawny.

“When we look at communities, we can say all have been affected. When we look at the top 20 this week a number of communities had seven cases in all. St Catherine has a number of communities with high activities but western and northern parishes are featuring very highly,” Dr. Webster-Kerr said.

Up to Thursday, Hanover accounted for 62 of the country’s 389 active COVID-19 cases; St. Ann, 49; Westmoreland, 48, and Trelawny, 43.

For her part, Regional Technical Director at the Western Regional Health Authority (WRHA), Dr. Diane Campbell-Stennett, said the spike in cases in St Ann, Westmoreland, St James and Trelawny comes after a steady decline in October.

“We were coming down nicely is October and now we are seeing an increase since November – this last week especially,” she said.

Dr. Campbell-Stennett explained that a lack of personal responsibility and unlawful gatherings are some of the factors contributing to the spike in cases in the west.

“We know that a lot of people are getting tired and COVID fatigue is setting in, but we need to remind ourselves of the importance of sticking to the protocols. We have to ensure that we are doing our social distancing, wearing the mask and that we are not gathering above the prescribed amount,” she said.

“There are still activities happening. People are still having parties and other gatherings in homes, and we have to really look at those activities to ensure that as we go into the Christmas season, we can cauterise this increase that we’re seeing,” Dr. Campbell-Stennett added.

The Regional Technical Director has assured that the WRHA is prepared to manage the current spike in cases, noting that isolation spaces have been increased at both the Cornwall Regional and Falmouth Hospitals.

“We have put in place protocols in terms of the hospitals to improve infection control, and we also have ensured that the staff is trained and there are staff welfare activities to ensure that they are ready. In addition to managing the surge, there is the primary care and prevention aspect that works, as well. So, the preparation of the hospitals also includes that improvement, in terms of preventing those cases,” she explained.

She added that the Authority is also increasing response at the community level through public education and screening.

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