By Ravin Singh in Jamaica
Jamaica on Tuesday confirmed its first case of the deadly Coronavirus (COVID-19) which has since left more than 4,200 people dead and another 118,000 infected across the world.
The announcement was made by the country’s Health Minister Dr. Christopher Tufton in a statement Tuesday morning.
“Jamaica today confirmed its first imported case of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) here in Kingston,” the Minister said.
According to him, the patient is a female Jamaican who had travelled from the United Kingdom (UK), which has since recorded six deaths because of the virus.
It was revealed that the woman arrived on the island on March 4 at the Norman Manley International Airport (NMIA) in Kingston. NMIA has more than 125,000 passengers per month.
Despite the individual arriving in Jamaica since March 4, Minister Tufton shockingly disclosed that it was not until March 9 that she was presented to the public health system. Since then she has been in isolation at a hospital in Kingston.
In response to the threat of the virus, the Government had set up four quarantine facilities while others are being identified. At the same time, efforts are being made to finalize the retrofitting of isolation facilities in each of the island’s public hospitals.
Health officials confirmed the COVID-19 case on Monday after reviewing the patient’s travel history and symptoms.
“A clinical sample was collected and sent to the National Influenza Centre, where laboratory tests confirmed the diagnosis today at approximately 11:00 am. The patient and family members have been informed” the Minister said.
Since then, several measures have been taken by the Jamaica Government to reduce the risk of the virus being spread. Among those measures 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 and the necessary interventions put in place.
Additionally, Jamaica’s Foreign Minister has informed Ambassadors and High Commissioners of travel restrictions which will be imposed.
Domestically, the Health Minister has also advised that public gatherings should be discouraged; non-essential travel be discouraged; patrols on irregular border crossings; and sensitisation of key personnel at all air and sea ports is ongoing.
These efforts, the Minister said, are supported by a communications campaign to keep each member of the population updated on the virus and its impacts and with oversight is provided by Prime Minister Andrew Holness-led National Disaster Risk Management Council.
In addition, the Minister said that he has also named a COVID-19 Response Advisory team that will support the Ministry of Health and Wellness’ planning and coordination with respect of this public health challenge.