Jamaican Authorities Brace for Fourth COVID-19 Wave Driven by Omicron Variant

KINGSTON, Jamaica – The Ministry of Health and Wellness is preparing for a fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, which is expected to be largely driven by the spread of the Omicron variant in the population.

christuftHealth Minister Dr. Christopher TuftonHealth Minister Dr. Christopher Tufton said it is projected that up to 2,000 persons could be hospitalized as a result of the anticipated spread of the variant in Jamaica. He said that preparations are being made in this regard.

“Up to this point, we have one additional field hospital at the Savanna-la-Mar Hospital, which should be finished by the end of the year,” Dr. Tufton said.

“We will have approximately 1,200 beds to support in-patient care for COVID cases. We do have step down facilities; so where you don’t need hospitalization, you stay in other facilities, including being at home with support. But where hospitalization is needed, we have up to 1,200 beds.”

On Wednesday, it was reported that a traveler who returned to the United Kingdom after a short stay in Jamaica tested positive for the Omicron variant.

“There are several conclusions that can be drawn from this, to include the fact that persons may have been infected by others within the population and/or this particular individual could have interacted sufficiently while here to infect or contaminate others,” Minister Tufton had said. “In other words, I think it is best from a planning, from a precautionary perspective to conclude that Omicron is here within our population.”

During the third wave of COVID-19 in Jamaica, more than 1,300 additional temporary staff were contracted to support operations in health facilities, including hospitals, as well as the vaccination program’s execution.

“We are preserving the over 1,300 temporary employees who have been helping in the field. We have extended their employment to the end of the first quarter of next year, and that is to ensure that we have the personnel [available],” the Health Minister said.

He further informed that the Ministry is reviewing its personal protective equipment (PPE) requirements so that the necessary items can be purchased and stocked.