MANDEVILLE, Manchester — As the country enters the community spread phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, Jamaicans should get used to the idea of people with mild symptoms being asked to stay at home rather than seek hospital care, Health Minister Christopher Tufton said Friday.
“Increasingly as the virus spreads and we get into community control, we going to have to accommodate more home isolation,” Tufton told journalists and senior staff during a visit to the Mandeville Regional Hospital.
Pointing to well-known limitations on bed space in hospitals and that in the great majority of cases people testing positive for the novel coronavirus have very mild symptoms or none at all, Tufton said it was obvious that the option of home quarantine would have to be used.
The health minister said it was going to be very important for people “to accept and understand that we going to have to determine who are the persons who are positive who will have to stay home”.
Tufton reiterated a projection by epidemiologists, based on the H1N1 outbreak of 2008, suggesting that in Jamaica “we may see anywhere between 1.5 and 1.7 million [contracting COVID-19 ] in one year. The vast majority of those persons won’t have any symptoms at all. It won’t affect them,” he said.
Mild symptoms or none at all, would be especially true for younger people. “They may have a cold, nothing to worry about,” the minister said.
However, about 400,000 people will seek medical attention. Some of those will need hospital care and “a small fraction will need intensive care”, he said.
Those projections meant the health ministry was compelled to recalibrate and reorganise its response systems in the months ahead, Tufton said.
In terms of the number of beds for COVID-19 patients at hospitals in the Southern Regional Health Authority (SRHA), Tufton said there were 30 beds at May Pen Hospital, 20 at the Mandeville Regional Hospital, 16 at the Percy Junor Hospital, and 24 at Black River Hospital.
He said the privately owned Kendal camp and conference centre at Kendal, just outside Mandeville — which was recently renovated for those who had recovered from COVID-19 in hospital and were in transition before returning home — has 32 beds.
Tufton, meanwhile, confirmed that all seven people who had died from COVID-19 in Jamaica, including a four-year-old on Thursday, had underlying health conditions, which made their status “more difficult to control”.
That, he said, was why people with underlying medical challenges as well as the elderly had been categorised as high risk and strenuously advised to be extremely cautious, including staying at home and avoiding “interacting too much” with other people.
Up to yesterday, official reports suggested in excess of 200,000 people had died from COVID-19 globally, with more than 2.9 million confirmed infections.
— Garfield Myers
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