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Jamaica – Health minister urges calm as country enters fifth wave of coronavirus pandemic

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(Jamaica Observer) – JAMAICANS are being urged not to panic, now that it is confirmed that the country is in the fifth wave of a surge of COVID-19 cases, but should continue to maintain some form of normality in the face of moderately rising infection numbers.

Outlining the epidemiological data at a press briefing on Wednesday, Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton stated, “This is not a signal to panic although we must be mindful to protect ourselves against the virus…while there has to be some comparisons we must not see each (wave) as the same. It’s not a reason to be complacent, but in this wave we are seeing less severe illnesses, less deaths, less hospitalisation and when we have suspected cases, or even confirmed cases, the stay in hospital is normally less. The trend is suggesting that discharges are just below admissions, so the net effect of that is we are holding somewhat in terms of hospitalisations, even with the high increase in positivity. Let’s try to maintain some level of normality because it’s important, but don’t be complacent.”

The country saw 147 new cases up to Tuesday, bringing the total number of cases since March 2020 to 133,250. There was one death in February, and another in April, marking a total of 3,013 persons who have perished as a result of symptoms associated with the disease. Three hundred and thirty-three of those deaths are still under investigation.

The seven-day positivity rate remains high, at 25.6 per cent, and the increase in transmission is being attributed to the Omicron variant, and the increasing presence of its sub-variant – BA2 – in the population.

National epidemiologist Dr Karen Webster Kerr explained that the data shows a modest increase in the number of COVID-19 patients who are moderately to severely ill, with the majority of persons having mild symptoms. She stressed that the positivity rate is not as sharp as with previous waves of the virus, and that the pressure on the health system is at medium level for admissions, which are fluctuating at this time.

As of the May 17, 79 people who tested positive are in hospital isolation, in addition to another 94 suspected cases in those institutions. There is one critically ill individual, two severe and 15 moderately ill.

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