(Jamaica Observer) Jamaican health authorities have stepped up monitoring of people who arrived in the island from the United Kingdom (UK), prior to those who landed on Monday, amidst the announcement of a ban on incoming flights from that country.
Yesterday evening the health ministry disclosed that 20 passengers who arrived from the UK on Monday evening have tested positive for COVID-19.
It was, however, not ascertained whether any of the individuals idendified is infected with the new strain of the novel coronavirus, which British health authorities have described as “out of control”, and “deadly serious”, according to an Agence France Presse report.
“We have already stepped up monitoring of persons who originated from the UK in the past week, with the intention of assessing status,” Minister of Health and Wellness Dr Christopher Tufton told the Jamaica Observer yesterday.
He said the positive results demonstrated that the Government made the right decision to quarantine, test, and restrict flights. “We will now await further tests to determine if those persons who are positive have the new strain of the virus. In the meantime, it’s important that persons who are still in quarantine abide by the quarantine rules,” he added.
Dr Tufton, in the meantime, urged Jamaicans not to use the current situation to stigmatise UK-based residents or Jamaicans based in the UK, saying, “COVID is a global phenomenon which requires global collaboration and response.”
In a press release yesterday, the health ministry said those who have tested positive for the virus will now be placed in state isolation, along with four close contacts, and monitored until recovery.
The 20 positive samples are to be sent to the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) for generic assessment to determine whether these are the variant strain of the novel coronavirus, the ministry advised.
In addition, the ministry said results for two passengers are pending while 267 (excluding the four close contacts) have tested negative and were to be transferred to home quarantine yesterday.
The travellers, said the ministry, are to be fitted with armbands and closely monitored by parish health teams and the police, while they complete the mandatory two-week home quarantine.
Meanwhile, the ministry noted that 301 passengers arrived here on Monday, not 302 as previously reported, five of whom were en route elsewhere, and three were minors under the age of 12, who were not sampled.
The two-week ban on UK flights also extends to other ports of entry and ends on January 4. Jamaicans have also been strongly advised against travelling to the UK at this time.
Several other countries have blocked flights and ferries, in some instances, coming from the UK.
The new variant strain of the virus is said to be significantly more infectious than what countries have been dealing with. The development comes as some countries, including the UK and the United States, started rolling out immunisation programmes against the novel coronavirus. Questions are now emerging about the effectiveness of vaccines against a new strain of the virus.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said on December 14 that the UK and Northern Ireland reported that a new SARS-CoV-2 variant was identified through viral genomic sequencing, and that initial analysis indicated that the variant strain may spread more readily between people.
“Investigations are ongoing to determine if this variant is associated with any changes in the severity of symptoms, antibody response or vaccine efficacy,” the WHO said in a December 21 update.