Jamaica highlighted for best practices in contact tracing

THE island’s public health system has been highlighted by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) for best practices in COVID-19 contact tracing.

Speaking at PAHO’s weekly press briefing yesterday, Assistant Director Dr Jarbas Barbosa named Jamaica, along with Costa Rica and Argentina, for doing “particularly well” with this aspect of the prevention and control machinery, against the spread of the novel coronavirus.

He credited strong laboratory surveillance systems that have enabled Caribbean countries to be disciplined about imposing restrictions and tightening public health measures when there are new infections, while keeping sectors such as tourism afloat.

He stressed that surveillance data is the “instruction manual” that countries must use to fine-tune their response, based on how the virus spreads.

Dr Barbosa emphasised that countries must, therefore, prioritise contact tracing to stem the spread of COVID-19, and adjust their approaches according to emerging patterns.

He noted, however, that PAHO is not ranking countries on their performance in dealing with the virus, but is pointing to the best practices in specific protocols.

“It is not the same as saying they [Jamaica and other countries] are doing everything well…we are giving these examples to call the attention of other countries to this very important aspect, but we are not ranking the countries, we are recognising them to share their efforts. All the countries are doing the best that they can,” he stated.

Dr Barbosa reported that, over the last week, there was an average of 150,000 daily cases of COVID-19 in the Americas, and noted that since the start of the pandemic, almost 22 million people in the region have been infected.

He added that more than 660,000 have died from the virus.

“While these figures point to a still surging virus, the situation differs depending on where you look within our region,” he said.

The assistant director pointed to North America, where COVID-19 cases are steadily climbing, as most states in the US, parts of Canada and some states of Mexico are experiencing spikes.

“In fact, the US continues to report record-breaking numbers of COVID-19 cases, and we expect it will soon surpass 10 million COVID-19 infections,” he advised.

Dr Barbosa said, however, that further south, some countries and regions are doing better than others. He highlighted that, as a result of effective disease monitoring in the Caribbean, countries like The Bahamas took swift action, including robust contact tracing, to prevent the spikes reported in recent weeks from ballooning.

He said that, except for Belize, Central American countries are also seeing a steady decrease in cases due to ongoing control measures.

At the same time, South American countries, such as Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay, have kept transmission under control and flattened their epidemic curves, he told journalists.

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