Several St Catherine residents who were advised by health officials to self-quarantine at their homes have found themselves under lockdown in Government quarantine facilities because they failed to comply.
National epidemiologist Dr Karen Webster Kerr made the revelation while responding to questions raised by Opposition spokesman on health Dr Morais Guy during a recent digital meeting of the Parliamentary Special Select Committee on Public Health (Coronavirus COVID-19).
Guy had asked the question following disclosure that 75 per cent of the people affected by the virus in the parish are linked to the cluster of individuals associated with the Alorica business process outsourcing company, which has been ordered closed. Dr Webster Kerr said at the time, 153 of the 208 confirmed individuals are related to the workplace cluster.
Guy, in asking who from Alorica were in a Government quarantine or facility, had said: “I ask that against the background of persons who have complained that they have been self-quarantined at home for almost 11 days and almost at the 14 days have been told that they have tested negative, but have been told that they are being moved to one of the facilities in St Ann. What is the rationale for that?”
Dr Webster Kerr responded: “It was dependent on the assessment done. For some of them, the home facility was good, but when checks were made they were not at home or when they are called, they are not at home. So based on their behaviour, their home assessment, and defining their risks, they were moved based on that.”
The chief epidemiologist also said there were “a few persons who were negative who were moved because of the risk they posed for further spread should they become positive in the incubation period”.
Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton, commenting ahead of Dr Webster Kerr, had said any decision taken on “whether or not to house is a function of the assessment of the risk”.
“If that individual — in the eyes of the clinicians on the ground doing the contact tracing, doing the assessment — is found to have a greater level of exposure, and the virus could be there but not presenting itself and their facility is not sufficient for them to quarantine, then they would be placed in that facility until it is certain that the virus is not present,” Dr Tufton said.
“As it relates to workplace clusters in St Catherine, clearly St Catherine as a parish is ground zero now in terms of the numbers, the concentration of cases which places citizens in that parish at a greater risk for contamination or spread, given the numbers that have emerged from there linked primarily to that workplace cluster. We still have some work to do there.
“We have isolated some persons at home, others we have moved out,” the health minister said further.
Opposition committee member Dr Angela Brown Burke said she had received complaints from individuals that they did not understand the reason they were moved.
In response, Dr Simone Spence, director of health promotion and protection, said the St Catherine Health Department that is charged with monitoring these people had received information that individuals were a bit restive as they approached the end of their quarantine period, even though they were already contacted and spoken to.
She said this had formed the basis for a media notice issued by the ministry advising people to wait until they had been contacted by the health department as it related to their official quarantine release.
Dr Webster Kerr, in providing an update to the meeting, said the numbers for the workplace cluster in the parish are affecting the outlook of St Catherine and Jamaica overall. She said about 60 per cent of the cases in Jamaica are from St Catherine.
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