Guyana prepared and equipped to deal with Coronavirus

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The Guyana Government is putting stringent measures in place to guard against the Coronavirus.

A new strain of the Coronavirus emerged in China in late 2019 and has so far caused the death of over 106 persons while there are 4,564 confirmed cases globally, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

There are 52 cases confirmed in 14 countries outside of China.

The Cabinet was on Tuesday briefed on systems being put in place at the ports of entry and health facilities.

The team of medical professionals provided an insight to the rise of the Novel Coronavirus and advised Cabinet that the Caribbean and Guyana were at a relatively low risk, but that it is important to be prepared for any eventualities.

L-R: Chief Medical Officer Dr Shamdeo Persaud, Minister of Health Volda Lawrence and PAHO/WHO Country Rep. Dr William Adu-Krow

The team briefed Cabinet that Port Health Authorities had begun screening Chinese nationals arriving at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA) from Suriname and Asia.

At the ports of entry, Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Karen Gordon Boyle explained that port health officers are equipped with questionnaires which help to establish where persons would have travelled recently.

The questionnaire is for persons with any flu-like symptoms.

“This screening tool, all of our port health officers will have it and the immigration officers have also been sent this too and they have also been advised that if anybody is coming on the planes who has the signs or symptoms, refer them to the port health officers for further questions,” Dr. Gordon-Boyle noted.

At a press conference on Tuesday, she added that if anyone is identified with symptoms and have visited the affected countries, samples will be taken and sent to the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) in Trinidad and Tobago for further tests. CARPHA has established a National Influenza Centre and has pledged to have results available within three days.

The persons from whom samples are taken will be referred to the Georgetown Public Hospital or the Diamond Diagnostic Centre.

Asked about efforts to address the possible entry of the virus from unofficial ports of entry, Chief Medical Officer, Dr Shamdeo Persaud said Regional Hospitals have been identified and additional health and environmental officers will be deployed to outlying areas.

Senior Registrar at the GPHC, Dr Tracey Bovell told the media that the hospital has gained experiences from previous incidents. She said an isolated area is in place to care for patients.

“Our aim is to get those suspected to a particular area to get care,” Dr Bovell noted.

There is no specific medication needed to treat the virus other than what is used to treat common coughs, cold, fever and associated symptoms, as there is no specific anti-viral recommended by the WHO at this point.

Health Minister Volda Lawrence disclosed that there is enough of these types of medication if they are needed but the Finance Minister will be briefed on any additional needs.

“We did indicate to Cabinet that presently we are utilising the stock that we would have got in 2019 and we will also seek to utilise the 1/12 we are entitled to in the first quarter [of 2020],” she said.

The Minister said a plan is being formulated to deal with the matter on a wider scale if the need arises.

Country Representative of the World Health Organisation, Dr William Adu-Krow said the likely cause of the condition is unknown.

He said so far, the WHO is looking at animals or surfaces that came in contact with other animals, person to person, food contamination as possible causes.

However, he believes that with the experience Guyanese officials have had in the past, they are equipped to deal with this respiratory illness.

“I think we went through this with Chikungunya, we went through with Ebola and the hystoplasmosis cases so in this country, even though we may not have had the cases, we have enough experiences to deal with it and I am hoping that that experience will…if God forbid, we get a case, we will be able to handle that,” Dr Adu-Krow added.

The public is being urged to take certain precautions which includes washing of hands after coughing or dealing with sick patients, wear protective clothing in wet markets and practice food safety.

Several cities in China are under lockdown due to the virus but the WHO has advised against issuing travel restrictions.

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