Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton, says Westmoreland could experience tighter restrictions in short order, as the rate of positive cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19) has been spiking in the parish over the past few weeks.
To date, Westmoreland has up to 541 confirmed cases, 22 confirmed COVID-19-related deaths and 91 current active cases. In addition, the statistics for the COVID-19 positivity rate in the parish has it as one in every three persons who are tested.
Highlighting these statistics during a special meeting of the Westmoreland Municipal Corporation on December 14, Dr. Tufton outlined that the positivity rate of COVID-19 in the parish is three to four times higher than the national average.
“So, it means that while the national average is at six per cent, you (Westmoreland) are at 20 odd per cent,” the Minister pointed out.
He pointed out that if this rate of spread continues unchecked, then it will overwhelm the public health facility in the parish, resulting in more deaths and a disruption of everyday life.
“So, there is a strong possibility that we may have to intervene with tighter restrictions as a parish than is the case nationally, and it could take the form of tighter curfew hours and other things, but we have to intervene,” Dr. Tufton explained.
“Westmoreland is now the parish that could be classified the epicentre of COVID-19 from the standpoint of the rate of spread and impact across the parish. If we do not find a way to cauterise the numbers, then the health system is going to be overwhelmed,” he added.
Dr. Tufton emphasised that the degree to which the Government intervenes in trying to manage the spread of the virus will come down to the people of Westmoreland, and indicated that persons have been ignoring the safety protocols at their own peril.
“The feedback is that persons are just not obeying nor complying with the protocols. The understanding is that we are having a lot of these illegal parties [and] persons are taking this virus for granted,” Dr. Tufton said.
“So, the real challenge is that those who take it for granted end up becoming a burden on the public health system and, indeed, end up spreading it to innocent people. Persons have to take personal responsibility for their personal health, the health of their community and, by extension, parish,” he added.
For her part, Medical Officer of Health for Westmoreland, Dr. Marcia Graham, listed Negril, Little London, Grange Hill, Big Bridge, Llandilo, Frome and White House as the COVID-19 hotspots in the parish.
Dr. Graham noted that the Ministry has been carrying out a COVID-19 Sensitisation Blitz in the parish and will continue to work with the public to mitigate the spread of the virus.
“We need the help of each and every one of you to help us to make Westmoreland a safer space in regard to COVID-19,” she said.
The Minister later toured several sections of Savanna-la-Mar with a group of health workers for a road promotion of the ‘Mask Up Before You Talk Up’ COVID-19 campaign.