Sunday 5 April, 2020

Health Ministry dispels rumours of coronavirus in Jamaica

The Ministry of Health and Wellness has advised the public that there are currently no confirmed cases of the new coronavirus (COVID-19) in Jamaica.

“There are no cases of the Coronavirus on the island at this time. Further, should the virus reach our shores, the ministry will immediately notify the public,” said Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Dr Jacquiline Bisasor-McKenzie, in a release on Wednesday.

The CMO’s statement comes amid rumours that the virus has been detected in Jamaica.

“We understand the public concern and fear associated with the virus, given the scope of the public health threat globally. However, the spread of incorrect information about the virus is decidedly unhelpful to our response efforts,” noted Health and Wellness Minister, Dr Christopher Tufton.

“We urge members of the public to contact the ministry if and when they have concerns or wish to have anything clarified."

The latest updates on the virus can be found on the ministry’s website, while the public can learn about the virus here.

Jamaica’s response to COVID-19 is happening on two fronts: actions to minimise the risk of exposure among the local population; and actions to enhance the capacity of the public health system to manage patients in the event that there are cases.

Those efforts include imposed travel restrictions relative to five countries (China, Italy, South Korea, Singapore and Iran); the patrolling of unofficial borders; sensitisation of key personnel at all air and sea ports; as well as the identification and, as appropriate, retrofitting of quarantine and isolation facilities.

The ministry, among other things, has also developed the local capacity to test for the virus; assessed the readiness of public health facilities to meet the anticipated increase in demand on services; and trained health personnel.

The efforts are supported by a communications campaign to keep Jamaicans updated on the virus and its impacts, with oversight provided by the multi-sectoral National Disaster Risk Management Council that is led by Prime Minister Andrew Holness.

The Health and Wellness Ministry is also advising Jamaicans to pay attention to the standard infection prevention and control precautions, especially as it relates to viral respiratory illnesses.  The precautions include:

• Avoiding close contact with persons with cold and flu-like symptoms (coughing, sneezing etc), especially as they transit through airports;

• Maintaining a distance of at least two metres from any individual with respiratory symptoms; and

• Frequently performing hand hygiene by washing hands thoroughly with soap and water or using a hand sanitiser if hands are not visibly soiled, especially after direct contact with ill persons or their environment.

The ministry is further advising Jamaicans to avoid touching their faces and urge persons with symptoms of acute respiratory infection to practise proper cough etiquette, that is, maintain distance from others, cover coughs and sneeze with disposable tissues, discarding them immediately after use. Such persons are also advised to wear a mask to decrease the spread of droplets to others.

“The extent to which we can keep our population safe from the Coronavirus depends on our co-operation with each other, understanding that each of us has a role to play. That role includes making the effort to share accurate information on the virus,” Tufton encouraged.

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