"I definitely believe that those countries that have highly contagious variants should not be allowed to send visitors to our country until those countries have achieved herd immunity. The risk to us right now is too dangerous, especially since we have just begun our vaccination programme. Our citizens are really too vulnerable at this point in time," Dr. Bailey reasoned.
As of today, May 1, the suspension of flights from the United Kingdom has been lifted and prime minister Andrew Holness had indicated that the ban would not be extended when it expired.
The Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association is optimistic about the prospects for hotels with the reopening of Jamaica's borders to visitors from the UK, and Chair of the Association's Montego Bay Chapter, said this was good news for the industry.
But Chief Medical Officer Dr. Jacquiline Bisasor McKenzie emphasised that a third wave was very likely and has painted an alarmingly grim picture of the possibilities noting that the country could experience as many as 180 deaths in a single week.
Dr. Bisasor McKenzie noted that while transmission has been slowing, more needed to be done to ensure a third wave of infections does not hit while the positivity rate is still high.
"Our starting point is not going to be as low as it was in August last year or even in December of last year. We are going to have higher starting points that are going to result in possibly very, very high rates, where we could have the possibility of as much as 10,700 cases in the peak week, compared to 4,000 cases in the peak week of the second wave and just over 1,000 cases in the peak week of the first wave," she explained.
Dr. Bisasor McKenzie said the health system would not have enough beds to deal with a third wave, should it begin with Jamaica's COVID numbers as high as they are now.
At the height of Jamaica's second wave, 716 hospital beds were needed for COVID-19 patients, putting a severe strain on the health system. But the chief medical officer said the situation could be even more dire as a third wave could require as many as 1,900 beds at peak - a number that is more than the country's capacity.
She said as many as 180 deaths could be recorded in a peak week of the third wave, compared to 59 in the peak week of the second wave and 31 in the first wave's peak week.
Dr. Bisasor-McKenzie is imploring Jamaicans not to become complacent.
She said that several countries, such as Germany, Italy, Hungary, France, Poland, Spain, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, the Philippines, Brazil, Peru and Iran, have gone into third phases “because as soon as there was a decrease in the number of cases, persons started to become complacent”.
“Now is the time that we have to ensure that we take the precautions, that we continue to maintain our restrictions. We have to decrease exposure, wear our masks, keep physical distancing, stay at home, avoid gatherings – social and business – so that we can keep our reproductive rates down, keep our positivity rate down, keep our hospitalisations down,” she noted.
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