17 April 2020
The current novel coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic, which was identified in China in December 2019, presents a challenge for St Helena.
St Helena Government has planned extensively. The approach taken is:
- To be prepared and respond in a practical way to prevent Coronavirus from reaching St Helena
- To minimise the likelihood of transmission to the public; and
- To maximise the safety of employees involved.
A defensive line of physical precautions and legal requirements have been and continue to be put in place. The implementation of quarantine at a specific location is one of the measures now in use. If a case should be found at the quarantine facility its function is to contain the virus and provide treatment all in one place. SHG also have the options available to require additional precautionary measures should the circumstances require it. If this was unsuccessful and the risk of spread within the community was identified, further substantial protection measures are now available to be implemented.
The exact response to COVID-19 will be tailored to the nature, scale and location of any threat. As the scientific understanding of this virus increases then the measures available for use by SHG will be updated accordingly.
What is Coronavirus?
Coronaviruses are a family of viruses common across the world in animals and humans. Certain types cause illnesses in people. Some have no effect on people.
COVID-19 is the name of the illness seen in people infected with a new variant of coronavirus not previously seen in humans. Based on current evidence, the main symptoms of COVID-19 are a dry and persistent cough, a high temperature and, in severe cases, shortness of breath.
Data suggests that of those who develop an illness, a large majority will have only a mild-to-moderate illness and fully recover. The majority of people with COVID-19 recover without the need for any specific treatment, as is the case for the common cold or seasonal flu.
It has been found a small minority of people who get COVID-19 will develop symptoms severe enough to require hospital care. In a low proportion of these cases, the illness may be very serious and lead to death. The possibility of serious symptoms, calculated by the World Health Organization (WHO), increases amongst elderly people and those with certain underlying health conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease).
This coronavirus is a respiratory virus that spreads primarily through droplets generated when an infected person coughs or sneezes, or through droplets of saliva or discharge from the nose. These droplets generally travel only a short distance before falling onto a surface. People could catch COVID-19 by being very close to other people and by touching contaminated surfaces or objects – and then touching their eyes, nose or mouth. To protect from spread, people should keep a larger distance from each other than in normal times, clean hands frequently with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer or wash them with soap and water, and clean surfaces regularly.
Coronavirus Planning Principles
- Prevent Coronavirus coming to St Helena
- Emphasise the new disciplines of Social Distancing, good hand hygiene, being more watchful and cautious in public
- Minimise the potential health impact by containing possible spread and reducing likelihood of community infection by requiring a period of quarantine at a specified location. Ensure key public services continue
- Maintain clear communication with the organisations and people who provide key public services, those who use them and the wider general society
- Ensure dignified treatment of all required to go into quarantine and those who may develop symptoms
- Ensure the Health Directorate are ably resourced, and protected, within the constraints of availability, access, materials and skills present on the Island.
To deliver these principles, there is an Action Plan around four phases (Prevent; Contain; Delay; Return to Normal). A summary of the phases are attached in Annex A. (N.B. The Return to Normal action list is still being developed and is not yet ready to be issued).
The different phases, types and scale of actions depends on how the course of the Pandemic unfolds over time. SHG monitors international data continuously to model what might happen next, over both the immediate and medium time periods.
Incident Executive Group
17 April 2020