KINGSTON, Jamaica – The Jamaica government says the current coronavirus (COVID-19) containment measures have been extended for a further two weeks until January 27 as the island seeks to deal with the impact of the virus that has killed 2, 502 and infected 105,172 others since March 2020.
“This means that the curfew hours will remain from 10:00 p.m. nightly to 5:00 a.m. the following morning, until 5:00 a.m. on January 28, 2022. All the other measures will also remain unchanged,” Prime Minister Andrew Holness told Parliament on Tuesday.
He told legislators that Jamaica recorded 1,714 new cases of COVID-19 on January 10 and that the daily case count has now exceeded the previous peak in the third wave.
Holness said hospitalizations have also started to increase, but the rate of hospitalization as a proportion of persons infected is lower than in the third wave.
In addition, he said that the weekly positivity rate has increased significantly and is now at 58.6 per cent, which is higher than the previous peak of 45.2 per cent at the end of August 2021.
Holness said that while the number of COVID-related hospitalizations has started to increase, it is still below the country’s COVID bed capacity.
“So far, we are not seeing an increase in the hospitalized persons requiring high-flow nasal oxygen. It is still too early to arrive at a definitive conclusion, but this is nevertheless an encouraging sign.”
Holness told legislators that while the preliminary indications are that the Omicron variant may result in less severe illness than the Delta variant, especially in terms of the need for high-flow nasal oxygen, “we cannot be complacent.
“Persons who are unvaccinated remain at risk, particularly the elderly and those who are immunocompromised or have comorbidities,” he said, adding that his government had anticipated the fourth wave and had started to prepare, in terms of putting in place additional field hospitals and securing oxygen supply.
But he noted that “there are limits to how much capacity we can create. Even wealthy countries with much greater resources than Jamaica have had their health systems under stress. Ultimately, individuals and families have to take personal responsibility for their own protection.
“After nearly two years into the pandemic, we all know what to do to protect ourselves,” Holness said, adding that people must wear their masks, wash their hands or sanitize, maintain physical distance, strengthen their immune system through proper diet and exercise, and get vaccinated.
The government said approximately 1,241,816 doses of vaccines had been administered as of Tuesday, and of this amount, 646,536 are first doses, 506,951 second doses, 77,403 are doses of the Johnson and Johnson single-dose vaccine and 10,920 are third or booster doses.
“We now have approximately 21 per cent of the population fully vaccinated and approximately 26 per cent of the population have received at least one dose of a vaccine,” the Prime Minister said.
Prime Minister Holness also informed Parliament that the government is making every effort to ensure that the school environment is as safe as possible for students and teachers and implored parents and guardians to closely monitor their children and to keep them at home if there is any indication that they are not well.
“This is the only way we will be able to keep the infection rate down in our schools,” he said, expressing pleasure at the resumption of face-to-face classes in most of the country’s schools.
“We recognize that the return to face-to-face schooling is not without risks,” Holness said, noting that that the learning loss to the nation’s children due to the pandemic is incalculable and that the government cannot afford to keep them out of school any longer.
He said the government will continue to work on providing citizens with knowledge through public education and increase the availability and accessibility of vaccines, so that persons can protect themselves.
“Whether or not they do so is ultimately a matter of personal choice. The government of Jamaica will be taking steps to ensure that we can secure and guarantee the continued operation and provision of government services.
“We have indicated long ago that we will put in place measures for testing and for requiring vaccinations for public-sector workers,” Holness said, reiterating the importance of getting the economy back on track.
“We cannot allow ourselves to be defeated by the pandemic, we cannot afford another lockdown, we cannot afford tighter curfew hours and we must learn to live with this virus”.
“I urge all Jamaicans to make the responsible choice to keep yourselves and your families and your loved ones safe. Get vaccinated, strengthen your immune system, follow the protocols, and let us all learn to live with this virus. That is the only way we will defeat it,” Holness told legislators.