Jamaican health officials are projecting that the island could see an estimated 1,500 daily infections by mid-January if the highly transmissible omicron variant of the coronavirus is already spreading locally.
The suggestion was made on Wednesday after the Ministry of Health and Wellness disclosed that a traveller from Jamaica to the United Kingdom has returned a positive test result for the omicron variant of COVID-19.
National epidemiologist, Dr Karen Webster-Kerr, said that if the variant is on the island, then Jamaica’s daily coronavirus infections could rise rapidly.
“If it is that on December 19 we already have omicron circulating in the communities, but we’re not aware of it yet, it could be acting and boiling underneath, but by mid-January, we could see, on a daily basis, over 1,500 cases,” she opined.
“If… we [the island’s infection rate] were at one until Christmas Day and then things start to increase, then we could see almost 600 persons [being infected] per day in January,” Webster-Kerr continued.
“… And if we are at 0.9 now, decreasing a little bit, then we could be just over 500 [cases] per day come mid-January,” she added.
In this file photo, Dr Karen Webster-Kerr (right) makes a point while Dr Jacquiline Bisasor-McKenzie looks on.
Turning her attention to hospitalisations, the epidemiologist said projections are showing that hospitalisations could rise to as many as 182 patients per day with a fourth wave associated with omicron.
“… We could have in beds in January, [around] 2,000 persons if the first scenario holds, and if the last scenario holds, then its 1,200 persons admitted to beds,” Webster-Kerr outlined.
“Just to remind that in the third wave, we had 1,269 persons at our highest in the third wave,” she noted.
Jamaica experienced its third coronavirus wave between late July to mid-September, with daily infections peaking at a high of 929 cases on August 29.
Webster-Kerr pointed out that the fourth wave of COVID-19 cases associated with the omicron variant could surpass that of the third wave of the delta variant in summer.
She explained that the World Health Organisation (WHO) gave an overall assessment, which showed that the risk of the omicron variant remained high.
“The global risk of COVID remains very high overall, and the current data indicates that omicron has a significant growth advantage over delta, leading to rapid spread in the community and subsequent increases in hospitalisation,” shared Webster-Kerr.
As of December 16, the omicron variant has been identified in 89 countries across the globe.