By Ravin Singh
Top health officials in Jamaica have put to rest a claim that the country has recorded its first case of the deadly Coronavirus which has since killed 106 people, according to the New York Times.
“We do not have a case of the Coronavirus in Jamaica,” the country’s Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton said at a press conference Tuesday.
Dr Tufton, who was preparing to make a presentation to the National Assembly on the implications of the virus for Jamaica, was forced to call the emergency press briefing after reports surfaced that an individual had been infected with the virus at the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI), in Kingston.
The report of the suspected case made rounds on social media and caused what the Health Minister described as “national panic”, after persons confirmed seeing hospital staff in protective gears that wouldn’t ordinarily be worn.
Students at the University of the West Indies (UWI) were particularly concerned as the hospital sits just along the parameters of the University’s compound.
More than 14,000 students from across the region attend the University which is located in Kingston.
However, Dr Carl Bruce of the UHWI assured citizens that: “The patient does not meet the case definition of the Coronavirus”.
The health official explained that the patient was transferred from another hospital to the UHWI where several tests were done.
“Doctors evaluated the patient. Because the patient had a history of travel to Asia, in China specifically, the [health] team considered whether one of the differential diagnosis should be the [Corona] virus,” he said.
The officials said that if there is a suspected case, a sample will be sent to the US for testing.
But while the country is virus-free at this time, the Health Minister shared that proactive measures are being put in place to prevent the entry of the virus into the small English-speaking Island which has a population of 2.8 million.
Dr Tufton explained that travel advisories will be issued for persons travelling to Jamaica from Asia and vice versa, to refrain from doing so until the virus has been contained.
For those in transit currently, he said that screening will be done at the ports of entry to prevent contamination if there is a case.
The deadly virus is reported to have originated in the central city of Wuhan in China and has infected more than 4,500 persons in more than 14 different countries, according to the New York Times.