He said the sending of the testing samples to the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), the release of the data to the government, and the public disclosure of the findings are worrisome, because of inconsistencies in statements from the Ministry of Health and Wellness (MOHW) and Dr Christopher Tufton, the Minister of Health and Wellness.
Dr Guy recounted that after raising concern on December 31, 2020, the MOHW reiterated that the results of the samples from CARPHA would not be available to local authorities for another two weeks. However, in less than 24 hours, Minister Tufton indicated publicly that the samples had been returned, confirming positive results for the new variant strain of the coronavirus among some passengers from the United Kingdom (UK) who arrived on the island on December 21, 2020.
The Shadow Minister said this level of inconsistency erodes public confidence and makes it more difficult for the public to trust any information coming from the authorities. At the very least, it begs the question as to whether the government is deliberately manipulating the release of the data concerning the spread of the virus.
This, he said, is a regrettable development because more than ever, the country needs to have confidence in the data and adhere to the protocol regimes as a safeguard against the spread of the virus, especially since the variant strain is confirmed in Jamaica.
Dr Guy asked, “Why did the MOHW say that it did not expect the information from CARPHA for another two weeks when according to Dr Tufton’s statement, it was already available? What was the rationale in holding back the results from the public in such a time of anxiety and crisis?”
From a public education standpoint, the government should redouble its effort to promote social distancing, hand sanitizing and the wearing of masks. Dr Guy said further that what is unfolding in parts of the United States (US) and other jurisdictions worldwide should not be allowed to happen here. He emphasized that it would be devasting if any strain of the mutating virus took root in Jamaica.
The Opposition Spokesman said that with the confirmation of the presence of the variant strain of the virus among the samples tested, the government must move with alacrity to tell the country what the new measures are, if any, that will be instituted to mitigate a possible spread within the Jamaican population.
The Shadow Minister notes data from the World Health Organization (WHO) which points to the rapid movement of the new variant. Dr Guy said the mutating virus would present many challenges to our local authorities because of its high rate of transmission and its prevalence among young people under 20 years old.
The Shadow Minister is again calling on the government to impose greater restrictions on travel from countries that have confirmed the presence of the variant coronavirus.
In late December 2020, Dr Guy issued an appeal to the government to widen its travel restrictions to a handful of countries that had confirmed cases of new variant coronavirus. In an interview with the Daily Gleaner, Dr Tufton stated that the government’s policies would be driven by science and that there was no immediate plan to expand the restrictions. Since then, the list has grown to over forty (40) countries with various variants of the COVID-19 virus. Despite this alarming situation, it is not too late to implement measures to protect the population, Dr Guy remarked.
He also said that there is a need for a greater level of contact-tracing for those persons who would have encountered someone who tested positive for the variant strain of the virus. Dr Guy is insisting that we find these people and ensure that they adhere to all aspects of the protocol.
Dr Guy said considering the new development, the Opposition is calling for a retrospective testing analysis of the samples collected within the past four (4) weeks from visitors arriving from the UK. He said these samples should be sent to CARPHA for testing to determine whether they are positive for the mutating virus.
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