Jamaica: UHWI denies coronavirus caused lockdown

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Jamaica: UHWI denies coronavirus caused lockdown
Security and other personnel at the University Hospital of the West Indies donned masks, yesterday (Photos: Joseph Wellington)
Security and other personnel at the University Hospital of the West Indies donned masks, yesterday (Photos: Joseph Wellington)

(JAMAICA OBSERVER) – THE University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI) has denied reports that its Accident and Emergency Department had been partially shut down due to a suspected case of the dreaded new coronavirus.

The previously unknown virus, which originated in Wuhan, China, has reportedly killed more than 100 people and spread to at least 15 countries, including the United States and Canada.

Yesterday news spread that there was a suspected case of the virus at the Mona-based medical facility in Kingston. One source inside the hospital told the Jamaica Observer that a couple, who had travelled to China in early January, turned up at the hospital with complaints of joint pain, fever and cough.

But the UHWI told the Observer that no tests have so far confirmed coronavirus.

“We do have a situation here. We are conducting certain tests, we are awaiting the results of those tests. Once we have received the results then we will make a formal and factual statement to the public,” senior legal officer for the UHWI Peter Glegg told the Observer when our news team visited the facility.

A few staff members and a handful of patients on the compound were seen wearing masks, but the general atmosphere and activities at the hospital did not appear out of the ordinary.

Glegg said he was not aware of a quarantine at the facility, and that it was “business as usual in our Accident and Emergency Department”.

“I’m not aware of any such case at this point in time,” he stressed.

“I have no factual basis for that. This hospital is always prepared to deal with any infectious case, and there are certain standard precautions that we take every single day dealing with every infectious case, irrespective of the aetiology.

At this point in time there are certain diagnostic tests that we run on any patient that comes to the hospital with things that we may have suspicions of.

At this point in time I cannot say yay or nay; we have to await our professionals to do what testing they need to do,” he added.

The number of confirmed cases of the pneumonia-like virus has spiked to almost 4,600 within China, with regions such as Hong Kong announcing plans to cut travel to the mainland as a precaution.

On Monday, Jamaica’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Senator Kamina Johnson Smith assured the public that the 18 Jamaicans in Wuhan were in good health.

The group of Jamaicans, which includes students and teachers, are at the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak, which is thought to have originated in the food market of the central China metropolis of 11 million people. China first reported the virus on December 30.

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