(PRESS RELEASE) – On Thursday January 30, 2020, during the second meeting of the Emergency Committee convened by the WHO 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).
The committee emphasized that the declaration of a PHEIC should be seen in the spirit of support and appreciation for China, its people, and the actions China has taken on the frontlines of this outbreak, with transparency, and it is hoped, with success. In line with the need for global solidarity, the committee felt that a global coordinated effort is needed to enhance preparedness in other regions of the world that may need additional support for that.
The World Health Organization indicated that they expect further international exportation of cases which may appear in any country. They advised that all countries should be prepared for containment, including prevention measures, active surveillance, early detection, isolation, case management and contact tracing.
As of January 30, 2020, the WHO reported a total of 7736 confirmed cases of 2019-nCoV from China. There are now 82 cases in 18 countries which include: Hong Kong (1), Thailand (14), Japan (11), Macau (1) and the Republic of Korea (4), Vietnam (2), Singapore (10), Australia (7), Malaysia (7), Cambodia (1), Philippines (1), Nepal (1), Sri Lanka (1), India (1), United States of America (5), Canada (3), France (5), Finland (1), Germany (4) and United Arab Emirates (4).
The Department of Health and Wellness has noted the escalation in the classification of the outbreak and continues to strengthen its system to reduce the possible impact on our population.
On Friday January 31, 2020 a National Health Security meeting chaired by the Cabinet Secretary and attended by Senior Officials from all relevant government ministries is scheduled. The Ministry of Health will be presenting on the Corona Virus Disease and the present level of preparedness. It is anticipated that a multidisciplinary approach will be taken, to ensure the necessary coordination to managing this new threat.
The Department of Health and Wellness has updated the existing Influenza Preparedness Plans.
The Department continues the following:
1. The education and sensitization of health workers, non- health stakeholders and the general public. The communication and health education will be heightened in the coming week as our teams will be participating in various media programs.
2. The enhancement of the Port Health Services. The Department of Health and Wellness met with senior officials at St. Lucia Air and Sea Port Authority with a plan to strengthen surveillance and port health services. Training has also been conducted at the two main airports for the relevant port health workers.
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.
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 where 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.
The Department of Health and Wellness continues to work closely with the regional agencies in the management of the threat of Corona Virus Disease.