Dr Christopher Tufton yesterday expressed confidence in Jamaica’s ability to deal with the deadly coronavirus as he and health officials rubbished claims on social media that there was a case of the disease at University Hospital of the West Indies.
Tufton, the minister of health and wellness, told journalists at an emergency press conference held at the ministry in New Kingston just after midday that the public health sector has proven to be robust when threatened by international health crises.
“Let us not forget that Jamaica, as a country, with its existing infrastructure and existing personnel, has done what I believe is a remarkable job in managing external health risks,” Tufton said. “We have a fairly resilient system. Our personnel are adequately equipped, or they make themselves so, in the case of new threats, and I’m sure we will be able to manage this one.”
He pointed to past global epidemics that did not severely affect Jamaica.
“We’ve managed to keep yellow fever and malaria out. Obviously, you have a few cases, but not to the point where it becomes a crisis. We also had the SARS [severe acute respiratory syndrome] virus, and the MERS [Middle East Respiratory Syndrome] virus, which were all comparable at least [to the coronavirus], and we have been able to overcome those risks,” he said.
He was quick to mention, however, that there may be margins of error, and a case might be able to come into the island undetected.
“We will always have a risk of an imported case, and we have to prepare ourselves to deal with it,” he said. “But I don’t want the population to believe that we are less than adequate to study, understand and address the issue. We are making these statements because we think the public must be kept informed, and we try to be as transparent as possible in doing so.”