The Ministry of Health has said there is a strong possibility that Jamaica will experience a spike in COVID-19 cases with the increase in visitors to the island in coming weeks in the run up to Christmas.
Health Minister Dr. Christopher Tufton said the Norman Manley International Airport will handle more than 70,000 passengers from now until December.
He said this increases the risk of infection.
However, Dr. Tufton noted that the surge in cases could be tempered if persons strictly adhere to virus prevention measures including mask wearing and social distancing.
"We saw what happened with an increase in the number of travellers. In June, we had some 14,426 passengers coming from Norman Manley, up from 3,778 in May. In July, we had 37,638 passengers, and in August 47,564 passengers also through Norman Manley alone. Greater numbers of persons visiting our shores means the probability of an increase in infection also will go up, and we have seen that happen in the past. We anticipate that it will happen again," he warned.
Dr. Tufton said the surge in COVID-19 cases is likely to occur at the start of 2021, however he pointed out that the projection was "not an attempt at doom and gloom, but it's a reality that...we have to face."
Chief Medical Officer Dr. Jacqueline Bisasor McKenzie said persons returning to the island from next week's Thanksgiving celebrations in the US could contribute to the spike in COVID-19 cases.
"There's a lot of movement there and so that resembles to us, in terms of the amount of traffic that happens, it resembles what would have happened in July, and end of July and at the beginning of August," she asserted.
The Chief Medical Officer said in a worst case scenario, the surge in COVID-19 cases could overwhelm Jamaica's health system.
"Because as the numbers increase, so does the possibility of the exposure of vulnerable persons and therefore more hospitalisations. Remember now that we are facing a period that is not similar to the period in August. During August, we had decreased hospitalisations. Now at the end of the year, hospitalisations tend to go up, and so we're having our beds being fully occupied in some areas, our internal medicine beds with our complications of NCDs, our surgical and orthopedic beds because of trauma related to interpersonal violence, and road traffic crashes."
Jamaica passes 10,000 cases
In reaction to Jamaica's COVID-19 case count surpassing 10,000, the Chief Medical Officer said every effort should be made to slow the rate of infection.
"We certainly do not want to reach the next 1,000 very quickly. But earlier on, maybe a few weeks ago, we would have started to present how quickly we would have been getting to that next 1,000. So it was predictable that yes, we would have reached to that 10,000 marker because we still continue to have cases on a daily basis. So, what it is that we need to do now is to slow that down even more," she urged.
Jamaica has recorded 10,088 cases of the respiratory illness based on figures released on Thursday.
There are currently 91 hospitalised COVID-19 patients.
Seven are critically ill.