Experts cite possible correlation between election campaign and COVID-19 jump

PUBLIC health experts say there could be some correlation between Wednesday record 210 COVID-19 cases within a day, and campaign activities for the September 3 General Election, but noted that the situation had begun to snowball prior to that.

Professor of public health, epidemiology and HIV/AIDS at The University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona campus, Dr Peter Figueroa, said the spike and election campaign activities can be connected to the increase in the number of COVID-19 cases which the country is now seeing.

“However, the problem goes back before that because the strategy followed when we reopened [borders], nothing was wrong with the handling of the reopening, but the preparation was inadequate and the people got a mixed message,” he said.

Dr Figueroa explained that firstly there was some degree of satisfaction that the initial restriction measures had stemmed the tide because the Government took decisive measures, alongside the hard work of the public health teams with contact tracing, but with the opening, the country was not adequately prepared.

However, he said swept up in that success was a belief that COVID was under control.“Many people thought we had managed to control it without realising it was inevitable that we were going to get cases coming back into the country and beginning to have spread. There wasn’t adequate preparation and people were getting a mixed message because on one hand they were hearing wash your hands, wear your masks, sanitise and physically distance but we weren’t always seeing that behaviour in the leaders,” he said.

Furthermore, he said, a significant number of residents continued to return to the island from North America, where there was an explosion of cases. Cooked with that, he said, the local authorities were not able to sustain testing at the airports as well as being slow out of the blocks with the requirement for people to provide pretest results for entry.

He pointed out, too, that there were also issues with the JamCOVID app not functioning efficiently. “The app was not automatically taking the lab test results back to the health staff, so there were challenges. The initial reopening strategy meant it was only a matter of time before we got reintroduction of significant spread in Jamaica which was aggravated by the activities around Independence, nomination day, and the election campaign, so we are now in a major surge where in the wake… we will have more hospitalisations and more deaths, unfortunately,” he said.

President of the Medical Association of Jamaica Dr Andrew Manning, meanwhile, told the Jamaica Observer that while close contact activities such as those related to the election must be considered a factor in the spread of COVID-19, this would not be the only cause. He pointed out that the country is in fact in its second wave of the virus outbreak as the numbers had been escalating over the past several weeks, entering community spread phase prior to, or around the time of activities related to the polls.

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