Coronavirus (COVID-19) – St Helena Preparedness Update

  • Social Distancing
  • Self-Isolation
  • Practice good hygiene
  • Keeping up-to-date

Keeping St Helena safe is our priority. In a press conference yesterday, Chairman of the Public Health Committee Councillor Derek Thomas announced further measures we are putting in place to try and prevent the coronavirus (COVID-19) from reaching St Helena. We would like to reassure the public that there are no suspected cases of COVID-19 on the Island at this time.  

We have in place the following three phases of planning:

  • Prevent – Keep COVID-19 off the Island
  • Contain – Limit the spread of COVID-19 on St Helena
  • Delay – Reduce the number of serious cases.

 We are in the Prevent Stage, and all resources have been deployed to ensure we remain at this stage for as long as possible. We have therefore introduced the following additional prevention measures: 

  • No one will be permitted to fly to St Helena unless they are exempt from immigration control (St Helena Status citizens, St Helena residents, holders of long term entry permits), SHG sponsored Technical Cooperation Officers and contractors, travellers to Ascension and persons authorised in advance by the Governor
  • Everyone arriving by air, and anyone that lives in the same accommodation with that person must self-isolate for 14 days unless advised differently by a medical person
  • Anyone on-Island who exhibits symptoms of COVID-19 (including fever, dry cough, shortness of breath, aches, fatigue) should call the Hospital on tel: 25707 and self- isolate. Please do NOT go to the Hospital
  • No cruise ships will visit the Island for the time being (A complete set of travel restrictions is appended to this release).

We have also received concerns around visiting yachts and the MV Helena. You are reassured that yacht crews self-isolate themselves, given that the journey to St Helena can take up to 12 days from South Africa. They are also screened and questioned on arrival, just like air passengers. As for air passenger arrivals these arrangements are kept under constant review.

As the Island’s food and materials lifeline, the MV Helena service will continue and we are reviewing the process of managing crew contact.

These strong practical measures together with other measures such as voluntary Social Distancing and practicing good cough and hand hygiene will help us to prevent the virus getting here, however it is impossible to eliminate the risk 100%.

Therefore as a community, we are all in this together and we have to take sensible precautionary measures to protect ourselves and those around us – we all have a collective responsibility to each other.

Please read on for information on how you can help.

Social Distancing

As announced at yesterday’s press conference a social distancing campaign is being implemented and this will be reviewed on an on-going basis. As part of our Social Distancing Campaign we are encouraging people to take steps to reduce contact with each other as a precautionary measure. These include:

  • Do not shake hands or hug – wave instead!
  • Avoid close physical contact
  • Try to avoid crowds

As per our phased approach to tackling COVID-19 on the Island we do not see it necessary at this prevent Stage to ban large gatherings. 

Gatherings in public places and businesses are still permitted as there remains no indication of COVID-19 on the Island. This decision will of course remain under regular review. Organisers of planned, large events in the next three months should therefore make their own judgement on meeting public expectations on these occasions. We note that a number of organisations and businesses have voluntarily postponed upcoming events and regular meetings. It is for organisers to decide if their actions are proportionate or necessary at this time.

Owners and operators of public places are required to ensure a high standard of cleanliness and hygiene is maintained.

As a precaution, it is voluntary though recommended for people with underlying health problems and/or over 70 years of age to avoid large crowds and gatherings.

Look out for posters in this week’s newspapers, in key places around the Island and on Social Media. Also listen out for our radio updates.

Self-Isolation

We have spoken a lot about self-isolation especially now that we will be requesting all arriving air passengers to self-isolate for 14 days, but what does self-isolate mean and what should you do if you are asked to self-isolate?

Self-isolation or staying at home is an effective precautionary measure to protect those around you – your family, friends, and colleagues – from contracting COVID-19. It means taking simple, common-sense steps to avoid close contact with other people as much as possible, like you would with the seasonal flu virus. We know it’s a stressful time, but taking these measures will help protect you, your family and the St Helena community from COVID-19.

If you have been asked to self-isolate due to possible COVID-19 infection i.e. displaying symptoms of new continuous cough or high temperature or have been in close contact with a possible COVID-19 infected person, you should remain at home for 14 days until you are well. Self-isolation can be difficult and frustrating. These simple steps will help to make self-isolation easier:

  • Plan ahead and ask others for help to ensure that you can successfully stay at home
  • Ask your employer, friends and family to help you get the things you need to stay at home
  • Stay at least two metres (about three steps) away from other people in your home if possible
  • Sleep alone, if possible
  • Wash your hands regularly for 20 seconds, each time using soap and water, or use hand sanitiser
  • Stay away from vulnerable individuals, such as the elderly and those with underlying health
  • conditions, as much as possible
  • Think about and plan how you can get access to food and other supplies such as medications that you will need during this period
  • Ask friends or family to drop off anything you need. Make sure any deliveries are left outside your home for you to collect
  • Make sure that you keep in touch with friends and family over the phone or through social media
  • Think about things you can do during your time at home. People who have successfully completed a period of staying at home have kept themselves busy with activities such as cooking, reading, gardening and watching films
  • When you are feeling better, remember that physical exercise can be good for your wellbeing
  • If your symptoms worsen during home isolation or are no better after 14 days, contact the St
  • Helena Coronavirus/Flu hotline on 25707. For a medical emergency dial 911.

All passengers arriving on Saturday’s flight and each flight will receive an information pack when they land at the Airport. Information packs will ideally be sent to passengers ahead of their departure to St Helena. Self-Isolation guidance will also be made available on the St Helena Government website. If you do not have access to the internet please contact Kate Heneghan at the Health Directorate on tel: 22500.

Practice good hygiene

  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand rub if your hands are  not visibly dirty
  • Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds each time you wash your hands
  • CATCH IT, KILL IT, BIN IT – 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 by calling the St Helena flu hotline on 25707.

Keeping up-to-date

There is a raft of information available online and through various media channels however we encourage you to use official and authoritative channels for information. We are increasing the frequency of our updates to the public so please tune into the radio on a daily basis, look out for our regular news releases and visit our ‘live’ Question and Answer page on the SHG website: https://www.sainthelena.gov.sh/coronavirus-COVID-19-live-qa/.

We’ve also now started broadcasting general advice on COVID-19 via the promo TV channel and we will be continuously adding to this content.

Anyone with concerns on a particular issue relating to COVID-19 should contact: marco.yon@helanta.co.sh.

St Helena Travel Restrictions

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https://www.facebook.com/StHelenaGovt/

SHG

18 March 2020

St Helena Government Press Office

Telephone: 22470
Email: liam.yon@sainthelena.gov.sh