MINISTRY OF HEALTH PREPARES TO RESPOND TO EVENTUALITY OF NOVEL CORONAVIRUS

Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Hazel Laws

Basseterre, St. Kitts, February 4, 2020 (SKNIS): The Ministry of Health is doing all in its capacity to prepare and respond to the Novel Coronavirus, says Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Hazel Laws, during a press conference held on February 03 at Government Headquarters.

Dr. Laws said the Ministry of Health will continue to inform and update the general public about the outbreak. So far there have been three media releases including the press conference held on February 03 where the general public was provided all the up-to-date information regarding the outbreak.

Medical education sessions on the virus where delivered to doctors and nurses in the federation and will be continuing as more about the disease is gleaned, said Dr. Laws.

“This sensitisation session took place in St. Kitts at the JNF General Hospital last Wednesday, and earlier this morning I travelled over to Nevis and I conducted that sensitization session to the doctors and nurses there,” she said.

The St. Kitts and Nevis National Aviation Pandemic Virus Preparedness Plan is also being updated.

The Ministry of Health continues to inform the public about good personal hygiene measures in order to prevent persons from contracting the flu or a viral infection of this nature, said Dr. Laws. Some of these measures include frequent hand washing, avoiding close contact with persons with flu-like symptoms, and recommending persons who are ill with flu like symptoms to remain at home.

Dr. Laws stated that the ministry has strengthened surveillance at all ports of entry, which include the sea and airport.

“We are particularly monitoring all international flights and flights from our regional hubs including Antigua, St. Martin/Maarten and Puerto Rico,” she said.

With respect to cruise ships, Dr. Laws specified that there is no cause for panic.

“The cruise ships have a very robust system whereby they pick up ill persons on the cruise ship, they are properly isolated and quarantined and treated.  Once the cruise ships come into port, our environmental health team goes on board and they check the maritime declaration of health. If there are two percent or more of persons who are ill on board the cruise ship, that cruise ship would not be given permission to have persons disembark. So, we think the cruise ships are fairly well covered, so we are focusing particularly on incoming air travellers,” Dr. Laws said.

All frontline port workers were formerly sensitised about the novel coronavirus and the new measures at the airport on January 24th at the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), she said. Frontline port workers include immigration officers, customs officers, airline agents, security personnel, and police. According to Dr. Laws, this session was well attended and received.

Important to note, said the Chief Medical Officer, is that all incoming travellers at the airports must now complete Question 17 on the Immigration/ Customs Form.

“In other words, our immigration officers will not be processing an incoming air traveller who would not have completed it and declared the countries that they would have visited within the last six weeks, she said. “We are asking for additional information, which includes the ports you would have transited through within the past six weeks and if we pick up any individual travelling from China, such an individual will be directed to the health desk at the airport and they would have to provide us additional information.”

“So, they are screened with respect to their travel history. So, we try and ascertain all the details regarding their travel history, city of origin etc. and we determine the risk of their exposure to the new corona virus. We also go a step further as to inquire about their health status including their temperature and we ascertain their contact information,” Chief Medical Officer Dr. Laws said.

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