6 March 2020
The COVID-19 virus continues to spread in various countries around the world and those following international news reports will be aware that the virus epidemic is changing at a very quick rate.
Island residents are reassured that St Helena Government has deployed all resources into preparing and responding to any threat to the Island from COVID-19. The situation is constantly being monitored and under review to ensure that the preventative measures in place are working and processes are updated to reflect changing circumstances.
The Health Directorate continues to work closely with Public Health England and the World Health Organization on the spread of COVID-19 and is doing all it can to prevent and delay the virus from reaching the Island.
While strong practical and achievable screening measures are being taken to stop the virus getting here, we must be realistic that the virus could get here at any time. As an Island we should practice good hand, cough and sneezing hygiene to help protect each other.
There are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 on the Island.
COVID-19 is a respiratory virus which spreads primarily through contact with an infected person, normally generated through coughs or sneezes or through droplets of saliva or discharge from the nose. Infection with COVID-19 can cause mild symptoms similar to other flu-like viruses, for example a runny nose, sore throat, cough and fever.
If you become ill with any of these symptoms do not go to the Hospital. Instead call the Hospital for advice on these dedicated phone numbers: 25707 or 64619. Self-isolate at home and await advice from Hospital staff.
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand rub if your hands are not visibly dirty
- When coughing and sneezing, cover mouth and nose with flexed elbow or tissue to prevent the spread of germs and viruses. Discard tissue immediately into a closed bin and clean your hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water
- Hands touch many surfaces which can be contaminated with a virus. If you touch your eyes, nose or mouth with your contaminated hands, you can transfer a virus from the surface to yourself
- If you have fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical care early.
This advice applies to travellers who have arrived to St Helena from the following areas:
Category 1 countries/areas – Wuhan city and Hubei Province (China,) Iran, Daegu or Cheongdo (Republic of Korea), any Italian town under containment measures
People coming from Category 1 countries, should be aware that St Helena is operating a screening process. This may involve a medical assessment on arrival and, if thought necessary by the medical professionals, this may result in them being quarantined for 14 days on the Island.
Travellers should self-isolate, even if asymptomatic (i.e. they don’t show any symptoms) and call the St Helena Health Directorate to inform them of recent travel. They should go home or to their accommodation and self-isolate.
Category 2 countries/areas – Cambodia, China*, Hong Kong, Italy: north*, Japan, Laos, Macau, Malaysia, Myanmar, Republic of Korea*, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam
Travellers do not need to undertake any special measures, but if they develop symptoms, they should self-isolate and call the St Helena Health Directorate.
The guidance for Italy, Iran, Daegu or Cheongdo (Republic of Korea), Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia and Vietnam applies to individuals who returned from these specific areas on or after 19 February 2020. The public should note that these lists are currently under review and continuously updated.
The Health Directorate advises anyone intending to travel to a country or an area of a country where COVID-19 has been identified, to take precautions and to be aware that when returning to St Helena they will be screened accordingly.
If you have arrived or returned to St Helena and been to any of the above countries in the last 14 days AND develop symptoms of cough or fever or shortness of breath, you should immediately:
- Stay indoors and avoid contact with other people as you would with the flu
- Call the Health Directorate to inform them of your recent travel to the country
Preventative Measures on-Island
- Screening measures are in place at both air and sea ports
- Temperature checks are being taken on arrival and any passenger with a raised temperature will also be segregated for additional questioning
- Procedures are in place for isolation if this were to become necessary
- With effect from this weekend temperature checks will also be undertaken in Johannesburg before embarking the flight to St Helena
- Given the instances of community spread of COVID-19 that have now begun to appear globally we are taking further prudent steps that help to mitigate against the virus coming here. In line with other countries, one such step is to reconsider and reduce exposure to international events that bring together, in close proximity, large numbers of attendees, who then return to their communities in a variety of locations around the world. Delaying invitations to large groups of
International visitors gives us time to reinforce our capacity to deal with the virus should it come to the Island. In this regard, we have taken the decision to cancel the upcoming Commonwealth Digital Economy Forum.
The process of gaining information from persons arriving at our ports is under constant review and the decision has now been taken to replace the initial written questionnaire with a verbal question on board the aircraft. This process will help us gather the required information and allows the immediate segregation of any passengers who have been in a Category 1 area in the past 14 days. These individuals will then be subjected to additional questioning away from the other passengers in order to determine the correct course of action to be taken (e.g. quarantine, self-isolation or advice).
Before passengers move forward to the immigration desks at the Airport, their passports will be checked by an immigration officer to confirm their travel dates and as a final check to see if they have been to any Category 1 areas. Once again, any concerns will result in the passenger(s) being segregated and subjected to additional questioning as above.
The arrivals procedure for the harbour is being developed in parallel to that at the Airport. Arriving vessels will be asked the same question as for aircraft passengers. If the Captain indicates that a Category 1 person or anyone with an illness similar to COVID-19 is on board they will not be given permission to land and a medical assessment will be completed to determine the most appropriate course of action.
The public will be kept abreast of the situation and the preventative measures put in place through a weekly news release and regular radio interviews.
A ‘live’ Question and Answer page is available on the SHG website here . You are encouraged to visit this webpage as a first step for any questions you have on COVID-19 and St Helena.
Anyone with concerns on a particular issue relating to COVID-19 that is not already covered in the Q&A should contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
#StHelena #Coronavirus #COVID-19 #AltogetherHealthier
6 March 2020