Coronavirus (COVID-19) St Helena Preparedness Update

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Following last week’s announcement regarding an individual in self-isolation reporting a cough and a headache and testing negative for the flu we have received several concerns around the contact tracing process and the requirements of self-isolation. In this week’s update we would like to introduce some definitions, clarify these procedures, and address the concerns raised.

Definitions

  • Quarantine – separates and restricts the movement of people who were exposed to a contagious disease to see if they become sick
  • Isolation – separates sick people with a contagious disease from people who are not sick
  • Local transmission – a country where people got sick without history of travel

Contact Tracing

A person who arrived from a country that is classified by the World Health Organization (WHO), since February 2020, as a country with local transmission of COVID-19 and who was in self-isolation since their arrival, displayed symptoms that can be related to mild COVID-19.

Due to our current inability to test for COVID-19 on St Helena, the Health Directorate is taking all necessary precautions to protect the public. After a risk assessment, the partner of this individual was advised to self-isolate. Individuals who were self-isolated at the same facility, have had their self-isolation period extended to 14 days after the individual reported a cough and headache.

When the partner of the individual also reported a cough and headache, a contact tracing was carried out. Additional public health measures were taken to widen the contact tracing, again due to the inability to carry out tests and the vulnerability of our Island population.

People in close contact with someone who has displayed symptoms of COVID-19 are at a higher risk of becoming infected themselves, and of potentially further infecting others. Closely monitoring these contacts after coming into contact with a person displaying symptoms will help contacts get care and treatment and to avoid any further transmission. The symptoms of COVID-19 are:

  • Dry Cough
  • Fever
  • Shortness of Breath
  • Difficulty Breathing

Following World Health Organization Guidelines on Contact Tracing the Health Directorate was able to contact all persons who had been exposed to these two individuals and therefore needed to be self-isolated.

A number of people have asked us why they haven’t been self-isolated through this contact tracing process.

The World Health Organization defines contacts as those who have experienced the following exposures during the two days before and the 14 days after the onset of symptoms of a probable case:

  • Face to face contact with a probable or confirmed case within one metre and for more than 15 minutes or
  • Direct physical contact with a probable or confirmed case or
  • Direct care for a patient with a probable or confirmed case without using proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
  • Other situations as indicated by local risk assessments

The public is reassured that all persons falling into these above categories were contacted and are now in self-isolation. These people are being monitored by daily phone calls from the Health Directorate to respond to any symptoms they might display.

Self-Isolation

Self-isolation or staying at home is an effective precautionary measure to protect those around you – your family, friends, and colleagues. It means taking simple steps to avoid close contact with other people as much as possible, like you would with the seasonal flu virus.

Those in self-isolation on St Helena have been provided with letters with the following advice:

  • Self-isolation in this instance means that members of the same household should stay at home and avoid mixing with the community
  • Regular contact will be provided by the Heath Team via telephone
  • Continue basic hygiene etiquette

If any member of the household develops symptoms of COVID-19 they are required to separate in a room and advised to call the Senior Medical Officer immediately on tel: 22500. If any individual required to self-isolate displays difficulty breathing or shortness of breath becomes worse the household is required to contact the Hospital stating a suspected case of COVID-19 and ask to speak to a doctor or a nurse. Please note, do not attend the Hospital, follow the advice of the medical practitioner.

Several individuals underwent risk assessments as they have been in contact with individuals who are in self-isolation but are considered not in close contact and were deemed from a Public Health perspective as not necessary to self-isolate. These individuals have been given advice on best practices including to avoid close contact with elderly, pregnant women, children and immunocompromised people over the next 14 days.

If you are concerned about contact tracing and being in contact with an individual who is in self-isolation please contact Kate Heneghan at the Health Directorate on telephone number 22500 or by email: kate.heneghan@sainthelena.gov.sh.

Quarantine

All new arrivals to St Helena will be subject to compulsory quarantine for 14 days. This will be at a location approved by a proper officer and will take effect from the next flight to St Helena.


All yachts arriving at St Helena are required to undergo a 14-day quarantine period from the date of arrival in James Bay. Within the 14-day quarantine period no landing of crew on St Helena will be permitted, unless there is an on-board emergency.


A calling vessel has requested for two crew members to come ashore due to health reasons (not COVID-19 related). In line with our policy decision and humanitarian obligations and following advice from the medical team, two people have been brought ashore and are now in self-isolation on St Helena for 14 days.


Policing isolation and quarantine


We are taking seriously the penalties related to self-isolation, quarantine and compliance. Penalties are being reviewed and increased and will be applied to people who violate the requirements.

Useful Contact Numbers


If you have fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical care early by calling the St Helena flu hotline on 25707.

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SHG
2 April 2020

St Helena Government Press Office

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