(PRESS RELEASE) – As of March 08, 2020, the WHO reported a total of 105, 586 confirmed cases of COVID-19 globally with 3, 584 deaths. There are now 24, 727 confirmed cases in 101 countries outside China with 484 deaths.
There has been confirmation of COVID-19 cases in several countries of the Caribbean including the Dominican Republic (1), Saint Martin (2), Saint Barthelemy (1) and most recently, Martinique (2).
The U.S. State Department has issued a cruise travel warning against travel by cruise ship. The CDC has noted the increased risk of COVID-19 infection in the cruise ship environment and has cautioned travelers, particularly those with underlying health conditions against situations that may put them at increased risk for more severe disease.
Due to the global increase in transmission and recent upgrade of the Caribbean’s risk assessment by the Pan American Health Agency (PAHO) as very high, the Department of Health and Wellness continues to strengthen preparation for in-country transmission and management as well as building diagnostic capacity for testing for COVID-19.
The equipment to facilitate diagnostic capacity has been ordered and shipped and is expected to enhance the management of cases through timely diagnosis.
The ports of entry have been strengthened with additional public health staff to enforce the
relevant regulations and protocols and to ensure the health of the Saint Lucian public.
On Friday, March 6, 2020 the Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Sharon Belmar- George accompanied the Prime Minister, Hon. Allen Chastanet to a series of meetings with the Cruise Industry in an effort to discuss guidelines and policies of both parties to facilitate a mutually beneficial agreement. These meetings proved quite fruitful.
The Department of Health and Wellness has been informed of some acts of discrimination towards people who appear to be of Asian descent. Though, coronavirus did originate in China, it is important to note that everyone is at risk of being infected, irrespective of their race or nationality. The Department of Health and Wellness implores everyone to show compassion and empathy to all as at this time stigmatizing and discriminating against any member of our society takes away from our efforts at preparedness.
As such, the public is reminded to focus on the maintenance of 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.
As the Department of Health and Wellness note that COVID-19 is closer to our borders, we encourage Saint Lucians to avoid panic but rather to focus on preparation. We have been providing guidance on the importance of infection prevention and control which includes hand washing, cough etiquette and the management of respiratory illnesses.