Tighter lockdown in St Thomas, Clarendon as authorities eye Corporate Area communities

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Government and health officials are worried about the spiralling cases of COVID-19 in the parishes of St Thomas and Clarendon, with infections leapfrogging beyond communities under quarantine to neighbouring districts, which could lead to more areas being put on lockdown in the days ahead.

Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton, speaking at an impromptu press briefing following a Cabinet meeting yesterday, said the ministry has, over the past three weeks, conducted more than 300 home visits in the St Thomas communities of Bamboo, Church Corner, and Lower Summit, which have been under a 14-day quarantine, and collected 700 samples.

He said, based on test results from those areas and other communities in the south-eastern parish, approximately 89 people have been identified as positive for COVID-19 since July 31, 45 of whom are within the quarantine zone.

Tufton said the ministry’s surveillance activities have also identified more symptomatic people who have been tested and are now awaiting results. Therefore, effective today, the quarantine period has been extended by another 14 days for the three St Thomas communities. The new quarantine period will now end on September 2.

St Thomas will also fall under a different curfew regime from the rest of the island’s stipulated 11:00 pm to 5:00 am hours. Daily curfews for that parish will run from 7:00 pm to 5:00 am the following morning for the next two weeks.

Yesterday, Tufton said the combination of positive cases within the quarantine zone and positive cases outside the quarantine zone, plus additional tests that are being done on people who are symptomatic, has caused more concerns about that parish.

“The evidence points to continued transmission of the disease within these communities.

“Additionally, approximately 20 communities within the parish of St Thomas have been impacted with new COVID-19 cases. These communities span the entire length of the parish and indicates a sort of community transmission, some epidemiologically linked, others not, and hence the need for a greater level of alertness,” the health minister said.

Activities within the parish are also being further curtailed. As a result, funeral services can no longer be held at churches and, while burials may take place, mourners will be restricted to 15, inclusive of the burial attendants and pastoral delegation. Weddings, entertainment events, as well as civic services will also be impacted.

For the quarantine area in Sandy Bay, Clarendon, the health minister said officials are also “seeing new cases of persons with symptoms”.

“To date, the ministry has advised that their surveillance has covered more than 900 householders with more than 2,000 individuals interviewed and, based on the tests, some 22 persons have been identified as COVID-positive. We are continuing to monitor and collect information and will advise if additional communities are to be added,” he told the briefing.

As is the case in the three St Thomas communities, the existing two-week quarantine measure has been extended for another two weeks for Sandy Bay and the 7:00 pm to 5:00 am curfew hours have been imposed, effective today.

In the meantime, at least 18 communities within the Corporate Area are now on the radar of the health ministry based on cases which officials say they are unable to concretely link to a source.

The communities of Duhaney Park, Patrick Gardens, Pembroke Hall, Cooreville Gardens, New Haven, the Half-Way Tree area, Arlene Gardens, Hughenden, State Gardens, Ziadie Gardens, Barbican, Molynes Gardens, Constant Spring, Meadowbrook, Havendale, Delacree Park, Olympic Gardens, and Waltham Gardens have all been red-flagged.

Yesterday, Prime Minister Andrew Holness, addressing the developments concerning COVID-19, said while it was “not an issue of large numbers” in the communities named, residents in the areas needed to exercise greater caution.

“We will be monitoring these communities closely because cases have popped up that are not epidemiologically linked, which means we can’t trace the source. Not that there are many cases, but the fact that you have seen a case where you can’t trace the source could suggest that there is a general spread, and you want to be sure. We are being very cautious,” Holness stated.

He, in the meantime, emphasised that Jamaicans will have to learn to “live with COVID” as “we cannot always return to lockdowns, we cannot always return to shutting down the country”.

Story via Jamaica Observer

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