Thursday 27 February, 2020

Jamaica bans China travel; quarantine for those who break rule

In this Monday, January 27, 2020, file photo, a poster warning about coronavirus is seen as passengers wear masks in a departure lobby at Incheon International Airport in Incheon, South Korea. (Photo: AP)

In this Monday, January 27, 2020, file photo, a poster warning about coronavirus is seen as passengers wear masks in a departure lobby at Incheon International Airport in Incheon, South Korea. (Photo: AP)

Jamaica imposed a ban on travel to and from China on Friday, a day after the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the coronavirus outbreak a global emergency.

The ban, which is an upgrade from the travel advisory that was issued on Tuesday, means all persons entering the island from China will be subject to immediate quarantine for a minimum of 14 days.

“Quarantine facilities for these persons will be provided by the Government of Jamaica and persons will be required to adhere to all restrictions, in line with provisions under the Quarantine Act,” the Ministry of Health and Wellness said in a statement Friday.

“Individuals returning from China who have been granted landing privileges and who show any symptom of the novel Coronavirus will be put in immediate isolation,” the statement added.

Such facilities are operational at all public hospitals with a specialist facility available at the National Chest Hospital in St Andrew.

Meanwhile, the ministry said Jamaicans are strongly advised not to travel to China.

“Those who travel to China will be subject to the quarantine procedures as outlined, on their return to Jamaica,” it said.

The development also comes 24 hours after the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) said there were no reported cases in the Caribbean and that the general risk to the region was low.

Earlier this week, at a hastily-called press conference, Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton and members of the medical staff at the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI) shot down rumours that there was a case of coronavirus on the island.

Jamaica has now joined a growing list of countries that have imposed travel bans/restrictions on travel to and from China.

One country, Guatemala, has imposed blanket travel restrictions on people who have recently been in China. President Alejandro Giammattei said anyone who had been in China in the previous 15 days would be prevented from entering the South American country's ports, airports and land crossings.

Other countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia, have moved to fly home their citizens from Wuhan province in central China which is the epicentre of the outbreak.

Russia has announced that it will begin flying home its citizens on Saturday.

The fast-moving virus has now spread to at least 19 countries and has killed at least 213 people so far in China where it has infected an estimated 10,000 people. Another 102,000 people were also reportedly under medical observation with possible symptoms of the respiratory ailment.

It has spread from Wuhan's Hubei province to every one of China's 31 provinces.

The WHO’s declaration of a global emergency is an acknowledgement that the viral disease now represents a threat beyond China where it first emerged.

Major airlines, including British Airways, Delta, United and American Airlines have all suspended flights to and from China as concerns about the coronavirus spread internationally.

While stating Thursday that the risk of importation to the Caribbean was low, Executive Director of CARPHA, Dr Joy St John, did caution that “vigilance is required (as) the situation is changing quite rapidly”.

She was speaking during the University of the West Indies’ Vice-Chancellor’s Forum titled: ‘Demystifying the Coronavirus 2019-NCOV). The panel discussion which involved experts from several regional countries was broadcast live via UWITV.

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