Friday 10 April, 2020

Jamaica records first coronavirus case

Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr Christopher Tufton (centre), addresses journalists at a press conference Thursday. With the Minister are (from left) Permanent Secretary, Dunston Bryan and Chief Medical Officer, Dr Jacquiline Bisasor-McKenzie.

Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr Christopher Tufton (centre), addresses journalists at a press conference Thursday. With the Minister are (from left) Permanent Secretary, Dunston Bryan and Chief Medical Officer, Dr Jacquiline Bisasor-McKenzie.

Jamaica has recorded its first case of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), the Ministry of Health announced on Tuesday.

The patient, a young woman, arrived on the island from the United Kingdom on March 4 to attend a funeral and was placed in isolation after presenting symptoms of COVID-19 in the public health system on March 9, health minister Dr Christopher Tufton announced at a press conference.

"Based on the patient’s travel history and symptoms, health professionals suspected COVID-19," Tufton said.

"A clinical sample was collected and sent to the National Influenza Centre, where laboratory tests confirmed the diagnosis today at approximately 11 am," he added, noting that the patient and family members have been informed.

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Tufton said the patient’s infection was travel-related and added that "steps are being taken to prevent the risk of community spread". Among those measures, he said, are the dispatch of a health team to the home of the patient for assessment and initiation of public health measures; the identification and contact tracing for all possible exposed persons; and a meeting of ministry officials with members of staff at the hospital.

The health minister also announced that the island has imposed travel restrictions on an additional three countries where there are a high number of COVID-19 cases - Spain, France and Germany; while travel restrictions remain on China, Italy, South Korea, Singapore, and Iran.

"The minister of foreign affairs and foreign trade and I met this morning with the ambassadors of those countries, together with the ambassador for the EU and have informed them that based on the risk assessment of community spread of the virus in those countries that travel restrictions would be imposed," Tufton said.

The minister also advised that public gatherings and non-essential travel are discouraged. He noted that the island will continue to vigorously patrol "irregular border crossings" and engage in sensitisation of key personnel at all air and sea ports.

He said four quarantine facilities have already been designated by the ministry, and added that authorities are finalising the retrofitting of isolation facilities in each of the island’s public hospitals.

Jamaica recently activated a $2 billion response plan to tackle the impact of COVID-19.

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