Omicron rises (in Jamaica)

JAMAICA AND THE BAHAMAS - Report 14 Jan 2022 by Keith Collister

Last week, Thursday evening on January 6, Jamaica’s Minister of Health Christopher Tufton held an emergency press conference to mark Jamaica’s highest ever number of new daily Covid cases, at 1120, as of January 5, combined with one of our highest ever positivity rates, at 46.8% (the average for the week was 38.7%), with 5 deaths that day. Jamaica’s fourth wave is estimated by our Chief medical Officer (CMO) to have begun on December 20. Until very recently Jamaica’s cases, and positivity rate had actually been declining, as the third Delta-driven wave had peaked in November and started to decline, with cases normally below 200, and with a positivity rate in the single digits, sometimes below 5%, which was the weekly average as of a few weeks ago. However, over the past few weeks there has been a dramatic rise in cases, moving from an average of 300 to 400 per day in the second half of December, with an exponential rise in the last week in December, and as a consequence we now have an “R” rate estimated at 2.4 by our CMO. As in other countries, 98.5% of the deaths are among the unvaccinated.

In political news, on Sunday, January 9, the Prime Minister held a press conference on the rising level of crime, and announced a new Zone of Special Operations (ZOSO) in quite a large part of downtown central Kingston, which includes part of the business district. These zones allow the army to work alongside the police to tackle the gangs – clear, hold and build – the latter referring to physical and social infrastructure (training, documentation, parenting, entrepreneurship, titling) and bears some resemblance to nation-building strategies employed by armies abroad.

After a relatively good December, with anecdotal evidence showing some of the major hotels full over the New Year, forward bookings suggest the key winter season may underperform previous estimates. Actual occupancy for December, at 67%, was also slightly disappointing measured against expectations, as it was just below average occupancy for May to December of last year, at 70%, although above the full-year average for January to December 2021 of 55%.

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