21 June 2022
The Health Services Directorate is preparing for the effects of lifting the requirement to quarantine upon arrival to St Helena.
The Island is at an optimum stage to move forward with Living with COVID-19 and there are four contributing factors why this is the best time for the transition to happen:
Omicron is currently the dominant variant of SARS-COV2 (COVID-19) being spread internationally – The Omicron variant is the least virulent (least severe or harmful in its effects) of the major SARS-COV2 variants, that has been encountered to date. Although highly contagious and therefore spreading through communities faster than previous strains, it has led to fewer hospitalisations for severe illness and fewer deaths. With 97% of our population fully immunized through vaccination, it is envisaged that when community spread occurs on St Helena the symptoms of COVID-19 should be reduced considerably. Most people affected will experience no symptoms at all, those who will be symptomatic will experience symptoms varying in severity from a cold to a viral flu. Contracting COVID-19 also helps the body build a natural immunity toward other variants that may develop in future, as is seen with different variants of Flu viruses.
The Health Services will be equipped and staffed to manage an outbreak of COVID-19 – The Health Services have been preparing for the eventuality of the Island community being exposed to COVID-19:
- The staffing capacity will be at a level in which it will be possible to operate the General Hospital as well as the Bradleys Medical Facility- should there be patients who become severely ill
- The General Hospital and Bradleys oxygen facilities will be operational with the ability to provide oxygen to patients in critical condition – should this be required
- The antiviral drugs, used for persons who are severely ill with COVID-19 are now on-Island
- The Health Services have sufficient PPE for Health and Social Care staff use as well as PPE used when treating patients who are critically ill
- All health care settings will have plans to implement during community spread of COVID-19 i.e. The General Hospital and Care facilities will have restrictions and testing requirements in place to protect their patients/residents.
St Helena has had a very successful Vaccination Programme – It has been established that vaccination against SARS-COV2 provides individuals with significant protection from severe illness, hospitalisation and death. Currently the local vaccination and booster programme covers all of those in the general population aged five years upwards, those in care facilities, those considered to be at high risk and Health and Social Care staff who wished to be vaccinated. Currently more than 97% of the population have been vaccinated.
The list of conditions classifying people at high risk, is now much shorter than previously issued – These are individuals who suffer with particular existing medical conditions which could result in higher risk of contracting illness or possible death from COVID-19, compared to that of an average individual. In the earlier stages of the pandemic there was very little known about COVID-19, how it spreads and how to effectively manage the illness it caused. A designated list of common medical conditions was used to define persons as high risk (clinically vulnerable). However now with an increased understanding of the disease, the development of a vaccine and a strain of the disease that is less severe; the list of high risk persons has been reduced. This is because it is now known that many of the existing medical conditions previously listed does not put the individual at any higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 than an average vaccinated person with no existing conditions. The new shorter list of conditions which classes an individual as high risk (vulnerable) means that there are fewer high risk (vulnerable) individuals in the community. Recognising that many of us living and working on St Helena for the past two years have not been exposed to all that the pre and post COVID world entails, during the transition period, St Helena Government will be providing explanatory advice regarding via the local media and other communication channels. You are urged to look out for these and inform yourselves on what you should/shouldn’t do to continue to protect yourself and the community.
21 June 2022