Jamaica has confirmed its first case of COVID-19. It is the sixth country within the Caribbean—and the first in the English speaking Caribbean—to report a case of the virus bringing the total number of cases in the region to 12.
The island’s Minister of Health and Wellness Christopher Tufton said the female patient had travelled from the United Kingdom, which has cases of COVID-19. She arrived in Jamaica on March 4 but did not present to the public health system until March 9. She has been in isolation since then.
“I don’t want persons to be intimidated or abused in any way shape or form because they are unfortunate to have had the virus, not to mention other persons who are not affected but are from a similar home or family environment,” Tufton told reporters.
He said while he would not divulge particulars about the person except to point out that the case is imported and the patient is expected to make a full recovery.
Tufton defended the measures put in place to screen people arriving after it was disclosed that it took at least nine days before the woman came forward.
“The country from where the person travelled, the UK, I think this person enjoys dual citizenship, they are Jamaican but with a UK citizenship…but the person travelled, they would have been screened as all passengers would be at the airport but they were not on the list of countries that would have been quarantined.
“The UK, even though it has the virus and it is getting worse, would not have represented one of those high risk at the time. So the person would have been screened in the normal course of activities at the port of entry, but having arrived one of the things that we tell persons…is that they must also self-assess and they are given documentation to that effect.”
He said based on investigations the person did not have symptoms until “days after arriving and having had those symptoms they went to see their doctor which led to all the other things that have transpired.”
Tufton made it clear that “there are no guarantees” as it relates to the spread of the virus, for which there is no vaccine.
“Even so under the legal framework, you can’t shut Jamaica out from Jamaicans who are all over the world and want to come back home, what you do is quarantine them,” he said.
Jamaica’s Ministry of Health and Wellness said as of Monday there were 241 travellers, who visited a country of interest before arriving in Jamaica.
“Notably, among that number, seven persons are in home quarantine, while some 23 are in quarantine at government facilities.
He added: “Based on the patient’s travel history and symptoms, health professionals suspected COVID-19. A clinical sample was collected and sent to the National Influenza Centre, where laboratory tests confirmed the diagnosis today (Tuesday) at approximately 11 am. The patient and family members have been informed. The patient’s infection was travel-related. However, steps are being taken to prevent the risk of community spread,” he said.
The minister urged Jamaicans to “remain calm and to implement all the advisories relating to personal hygiene, social distancing, and overall infection prevention control.”
The other Caribbean territories with the virus are French Guiana (5), Martinique (2), Saint Martin (2), Dominican Republic (1), and Saint Barthelemy (1).