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Jamaicans Urged to Take COVID-19 Omicron Variant Seriously

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#Kingston, January 8, 2022 – Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton, is urging Jamaicans to take the highly contagious coronavirus (COVID-19) Omicron variant seriously.

“I urge us as a people, and those who comment and are influencers in the society, not to create a false sense of complacency and security because we have all concluded that the [variant] may be a less severe strain, because there is a direct relationship between the extent of spread, the unvaccinated and the vulnerable, and those who will end up in hospitals,” he said while addressing a COVID Conversations digital press briefing on Thursday (January 6).

The Minister noted that the COVID-19 reproductive rate, now being at 2.4 per cent, is cause for great concern.

“It means that, under normal circumstances, we would desire a reproductive rate [well] below one [per cent]; 2.4 per cent means that the virus is expanding exponentially. It means, at this rate, we’re likely to see significant increases every two days [to] three days and, possibly, doubling of the numbers possibly, unless we cauterize the spread of the virus,” he said.

Dr. Tufton posited that the extent of transmission must be viewed in the context of the challenges Jamaica faces regarding capacity and limited resources.  He noted that the new variant is “raging in countries that, on the face of it, have a lot more capacity in terms of doctors, nurses, [and] hospital facilities, [yet] many people are dying.”

“We are not a developed country with unlimited resources and hospital beds. In those countries, hospitals and hospital beds are being overrun [and] we have a vaccination rate that is lower than many of these countries,” he said.

The Minister cited the United States (US) as an example, noting that although there immunisation rate averaged 60 per cent, “they are being overrun in some states.”

Dr. Tufton encouraged citizens to continue observing the COVID-19 infection prevention and control measures instituted to contain transmission, which include mask wearing, physical distancing, frequent and thorough hand washing and sanitising “and, of course, vaccination”.

For her part, Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Dr. Jacquiline Bisasor-McKenzie, emphasised that “we probably still have a considerable amount of [the] Delta [variant] in [the] country as well”.

“So we probably have different variants that are circulating, and remember that even though the Omicron [variant] has been shown to cause a less severe illness, our history shows that we have significant severity of illness in the country with the Delta [variant],” she noted.

The CMO pointed out that with almost 80 per cent of the population unvaccinated, “it means that we are still quite vulnerable to both the Delta and Omicron [variants] and, therefore, we need to ensure that we get vaccinated.”

 

Contact: Alecia Smith

Release: JIS

 

Photo Captions:

Header: Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton, emphasises a point while speaking during a COVID Conversations digital press briefing on Thursday (January 6).

Insert: Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Dr. Jacquiline Bisasor-McKenzie, addresses journalists during a COVID Conversations digital press briefing on Thursday (January 6).

 

Donald De La Haye Photos

 

 

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Canadian flight crew busted in DR; but airline wants ‘innocent’ released

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 By Shanieka Smith

Features Writer

 

#TheCaribbean, April 17, 2022 – A major drug bust – about 200 packages of presumed cocaine weighing about 200 kilograms were seized at the Punta Cana International Airport in the Dominican Republic on an aircraft that was set to fly from Punta Cana to Toronto. The National Directorate for Drug Control (DNCD) in the Dominican Republic said authorities allegedly found eight black packages each containing 25 packages.

As a result, a Canadian Airline crew from Canadian charter carrier Pivot Airlines, along with some passengers have been detained. The eleven detainees, nine of which are Canadians, one person from India and another from the Dominican Republic are being questioned to determine who and how each person may have been involved. Six are aircrew members, including two pilots, and five are passengers.

Pivot Airlines shared that the five crew members “discovered, reported and suspected that there was contraband in a maintenance compartment of the plane.”

In a letter to the Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly, the CEO of Pivot Airlines, Eric Edmonson wrote that “for more than 24 days, our crew has been subject to threats against their lives, inhumane treatment, and arbitrary detention, for dutifully reporting a crime and averting a potential aviation disaster. We are deeply concerned for their safety and are pleading with you to intervene so they may return home to their families,” Edmonson said.

The company said they are “working diligently to secure the release of our crew.” In the meantime, a series of investigations is ongoing and the detainees, though they have been bailed, will have to stay in the Dominican Republic until the matter is resolved.

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Summit of the Americas; CARICOM to boycott?! 

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By Shanieka Smith

Features Writer

 

#TheCaribbean, April 17, 2022 – It is either inclusion or a big empty room because while there is not yet a definite decision, CARICOM nations may boycott the upcoming Summit of the Americas.

Along with Caribbean leaders, a number of other leaders are planning to boycott the Summit because Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua were not invited. These three countries are excluded because they supposedly “do not respect” democracy.

Reports are that leaders from the Caribbean had unanimously agreed to boycott the meeting during the CARICOM Intersessional Summit held in Belize in March. It seems, however, that some have since changed their minds.

Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda Gaston Brown, sitting chairman of CARICOM, shared that the decision to go or not must be a unified one. He said this after he was quoted by The Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) that Antigua and Barbuda will not be attending the Summit.

The Summit of the Americas is a series of international meetings held every three years in a different country. This year it will be in Los Angeles on (MONTH) 6-10.  It unites leaders of countries in the Organization of American States (OAS).

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Jamaica #1 Summer Bookings for Region

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By Shanieka Smith

Features Writer

 

#Jamaica, May 16, 2022 – Jamaica is ranked number one in the Caribbean for summer bookings by US travellers who will travel to the Caribbean soon. The summer holiday is only in a few weeks and will last about three months.

Tourism Minister, Edmund Bartlett, the Jamaica Tourist Board members and senior executives of the Flight Centre Travel Group met at the US headquarters in New Jersey for a high-level meeting and this was when this became known.

All executives are optimistic for 2023 and 2024. Bartlett said this is great news and Jamaica may experience the best summer ever since the pandemic. Tourism director Donavan White said Jamaica is aggressively working towards recovery.

A part of its recovery strategy is meeting with tourism partners to understand the market sentiment and projections. Flight Centre, one of Jamaica’s long-standing partners is a 40 year old travel agency.

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