(PRESS RELEASE) – The World Health Organization reported on the emergence of a new strain of Corona virus 2019-nCov on January 9, 2020 in Wuhan, Hubei Province China.
As of February 2, 2020, the WHO reported a total of 14,557 confirmed cases of coronavirus2019-nCoV. 14,411 cases were reported from China. One hundred and forty six confirmed cases have been reported outside of China in twenty three countries.
On Thursday January 30, 2020, during the second meeting of the Emergency Committee convened by the World Health Organization Director-General under the International Health Regulations (IHR) (2005) regarding the outbreak of novel coronavirus 2019-nCoV in the People’s Republic of China, the committee agreed that the outbreak now meets the criteria for a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC).
Due to the novelty of this virus, the World Health Organization and other international partners continue to investigate and provide guidance to the regional community. Presently there is limited information on the characterization of the behavior of the virus, the severity of infection and the levels of transmissibility.
Although the risk level for the Caribbean sub-region is currently classified as low and the disease is at an early stage of the outbreak, the Department of Health and Wellness is proceeding with the necessary vigilance and preparation to reduce the possible impact on our population. Corona viruses cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-nCoV). The signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and difficulty breathing. In the severe cases of the disease, pneumonia may develop severe respiratory syndrome and death. This new strain has not been previously identified in humans.
The Department of Health and Wellness of Saint Lucia has been closely monitoring the outbreak of Corona Virus in China and has noted the escalation over the last few days. Therefore we are taking measures to restrict the possible entry of the Corona Virus Disease into Saint Lucia and to protect our citizens.
The government of Saint Lucia has decided that they will not allow any non-national with a travel history within the last 14 days from Mainland China, (whether in- transit or originating), to enter any local port from Tuesday, February 4, 2020. Any national returning to Saint Lucia with similar travel history, will be quarantined for 14 days.
The Department of Health and Wellness is presently updating existing Influenza Preparedness Plans.
This includes but not limited to:
1. The education and sensitization of health workers, non- health stakeholders and the general public.
2. The enhancement of the Port Health Services.
3. The active surveillance at high risk institutions (ports of entry, hotels).
4. The prompt recognition strategies– high index of surveillance for travellers with recent history or visits to China and other affected countries.
5. Ensuring the isolation of ill cases in designated hospital isolation room/ward.
6. Establishing Diagnostic capacity through the Caribbean Public Health Agency CARPHA.
7. Facilitate contact tracing and quarantine of suspected cases.
8. The promotion of general hygiene measures and infection control for border agencies, health care personnel and the general public.
In the interim, the public is asked to continue practicing the standard recommendations to prevent the spread of infection. These include:
– regular hand washing with soap and water or alcohol based hand sanitizer when soap and water is not available.
– cover mouth and nose with disposable tissues or clothing when coughing and sneezing.
– avoid close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing.
– seek medical attention and share your travel history with your health care provider if you have symptoms suggestive of respiratory illness either during or after travel.
My government is committed to working towards ensuring the safety of our citizens.