Coronavirus (Covid-19): Live Q&A

Coronavirus (Covid-19)

What is a Coronavirus?

What is a Coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses found in both animals and humans. Some infect people and are known to cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

What is Coronavirus (Covid-19)?

A novel coronavirus is a new strain of coronavirus that has not been previously identified in humans.  The Coronavirus (Covid-19) is a novel coronavirus and had not previously been detected before the outbreak was reported in Wuhan, China, in December 2019.

How dangerous is Coronavirus (Covid-19)?

As with other respiratory illnesses, infection with Covid-19 can cause mild symptoms including a runny nose, sore throat, cough, and fever. It can be more severe for some persons and can lead to pneumonia or breathing difficulties. More rarely, the disease can be fatal. Older people and people with pre-existing medical conditions (such as diabetes and heart disease) appear to be more vulnerable to becoming severely ill with the virus.

How does the virus spread?

Covid-19 is a respiratory virus which spreads primarily through contact with an infected person through respiratory droplets generated when a person, for example, coughs or sneezes, or through droplets of saliva or discharge from the nose. It is important that everyone practice good respiratory hygiene. For example, sneeze or cough into a flexed elbow, or use a tissue and discard it immediately into a closed bin. It is also very important for people to wash their hands regularly with either alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.

How long does it take for the virus to transfer from one person to the next?

The latest information from medical experts suggests that it takes around 15 minutes for the virus to pass from one person to another, though this might vary.

Protect yourself and others from Coronavirus

Wash your hands frequently

Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand rub if your hands are not visibly dirty.

Practice respiratory hygiene

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.

Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth

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.

Social/ Physical Distancing

There are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 on St Helena. With capacity to now control arrivals, provide increased medical care and specialist testing for COVID-19 on-Island, the IEG has agreed that current Social/Physical Distancing advice can be suspended. If in the future a case of the virus (outside of Bradley’s Camp) is identified on the Island the IEG will be able to re-introduce the measure.

Organisations may now resume their normal activities or social events.

Is COVID-19 on St Helena?

Is COVID-19 on St Helena?

We wish to reassure you that at this time there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 on the Island.

What is the threat of Covid-19 reaching St Helena?

The threat is being taken seriously by all agencies involved and preventative measures are in place and the situation continuously monitored.

If the virus is detected on the Island, what impacts can we expect?

If the virus is detected on the Island, we can expect the likely impacts of infection:

For the majority of those infected this will be a mild illness with symptoms such as a cough, fever, and little else.

For a small number, potentially between 5-10% of those infected, illness may be felt more seriously, leading to more severe ill effects.

For an even smaller number, likely to be between 1-3% of who become infected, the impact could be extremely serious.

Those over 65 years of age, and those with chronic heart or chest disease (including asthma needing regular treatment), diabetes, cancer and other immune related disorders are the individuals most at risk of developing serious complications as a result of contracting COVID-19. The Children & Adults Social Care Directorate are developing and implementing additional measures to protect our elderly and vulnerable people.

What will happen if a person is affected?

Bradley’s is the isolation and quarantine accommodation for arrivals to St Helena, equipped with an ICU. The Camp is able to provide treatment if needed, and the Health Directorate is in close contact with Public Health England should additional resources need to be requested.

Health and Wellbeing

What is the process for people with flu-like symptoms in terms of going to the General Hospital or Clinics?

If you become ill with any flu-like symptoms, similar to those of Covid-19, do not go to the General Hospital or any clinic. Instead, please call the hospital for advice on this dedicated phone number: 25707 . Self-isolate at home and await advice from Hospital staff.

There is a separate facility for people with flu-like symptoms similar to those of Covid-19, where they can be assessed separately to others requiring medical attention for other varied reasons.

What should I do if COVID-19 is expected or confirmed on St Helena?

Don’t panic – this is a mild, self-limiting infection for almost all of us.

Practice good hygiene.

Stay away from crowds and keep your distance from others.

Keep informed via our regular updates.

Keep up other healthy lifestyle practices. The healthier you are, the healthier your immune system is.

If you have symptoms consistent with COVID-19 i.e. runny nose, sore throat, cough, and fever, self-isolate as soon as possible and call, do not visit, the hospital using the dedicated phone number: 25707

Should I be scared of Covid-19?

It is only human nature to feel a bit scared and uneasy with the effect the virus is having globally. The Health Directorate’s advice is to be cautious, but not paranoid. Ensure you are following the latest safety precautions – washing your hands and practicing coughing and sneezing etiquette.

Downloadable Link

Helping Children with Worries

COVID-19 Monitoring and Prevention on St Helena

Who is monitoring the situation?

St Helena Government (SHG) continues to monitor possible threats to the community and to prepare control arrangements for Coronavirus (COVID-19). The preventative measures on the Island are under constant review by SHG to ensure that they are working and new information is taken into account.   

The Incident Executive Group (IEG) meets regularly to review the Island’s preparedness, the latest travel developments and St Helena’s physical requirements.

Keeping St Helena safe is our priority and we would like to reassure you that we have deployed all resources into preparing and responding to any threat to the Island from COVID-19.

The situation is constantly being monitored to ensure that the preventive measures in place are working, and processes are regularly 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 we are doing all we can to prevent the virus from reaching the Island.

A Command Structure is in place to ensure that key parties are ready to respond in the event COVID-19 reaches St Helena.

The IEG has three phases of planning to manage the COVID-19 threat:

Prevent – Keep COVID-19 off-Island

Contain – Limit the spread of Coronavirus 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.

What preventative measures are in place on-Island?

All new arrivals to St Helena will continue to be subject to legally required 14-day quarantine at Bradley’s Camp or another suitable location as directed by a Proper Officer. New arrivals are tested for COVID-19 after the 14 days quarantine as an extra reassurance.

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.

Marine vessels are allowed to enter port and the crew subsequently permitted to enter St Helena only after they have completed 14 days quarantine, display no COVID-19 symptoms and as an extra reassurance have tested negative for COVID-19 on the fourteenth day of quarantine

The 14 days quarantine period for those arriving on marine vessels will now be defined as the absence of COVID-19 for 14 days. The 14 days will be counted to  include days spent at sea (based on official ship’s records),  days  spent  quarantining on a vessel in St Helena waters or  days spent quarantining  at Bradley’s Camp  or another suitable  location. This is similar to arrangements in some other overseas territories

A mutual recognition exemption from quarantine may be possible for those countries and territories that St Helena recognises as COVID-19 free (e.g. Ascension, Tristan da Cunha, and Falkland Islands). This option will be explored further with at first Ascension Island in the coming weeks. Such an arrangement relies on the other territory (ies) agreeing to recognise St Helena’s COVID-19 free status too. This mutual recognition arrangement is foreseen to be for those individuals who have completed a 14-day or longer quarantine period at these territories without any infection. Passengers would still be tested for COVID-19  on arrival at St Helena as an extra reassurance measure.

What protective measures are in place for Hospital Staff as well as the staff from the private sector cleaning company that is tasked with cleaning the General Hospital?

Staff at the General Hospital are using appropriate personal protective equipment and are briefed regularly on the latest precautionary and protective measures.

Cleaners must ensure that they follow the safety precaution advice of regularly washing hands and using the catch it, bin it, kill it, method when coughing and sneezing. The cleaning company will meet with the Director and Assistant Director of Health to discuss any questions and concerns they might have.

Travelling to and from St Helena

Why has St Helena Airport remained open?

We have a small population with access to finite health resources and are therefore very reliant on external health and physical resources to support residents. 

At a time of increasing pressure on the Island’s health services due to the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is essential that a swift link to the rest of the world is available in order that the Island can be readily supported in its efforts to repel and manage the threat of COVID-19. 

The Airport is the only means to get medical supplies, test kits, equipment and people to the Island in an expeditious manner, and therefore it is essential that the Airport remains open to permit this.  Closing the Airport would close off this link and could therefore make a difficult and challenging situation even worse by not getting medical care to the population in sufficient time or quantities. It would also end all medevacs from the Island.  As such, it is the intention of SHG and St Helena Airport Limited to keep the Airport ready for operations. 

Keeping the Airport open also allows for the necessary maintenance and calibration regime to remain in place. Vital airport navigation equipment needs to be regularly monitored and maintained, the training of staff is required to maintain their certification and accreditation, and the Airport itself needs to remain open to remain certificated. 

What about future flights to St Helena? And when is the next scheduled flight?

South Africa has relaxed their lockdown restrictions to level 3, which allows limited domestic flights within the country. International flights are not expected to resume until the country moves to level 1 or 0 – when this will happen is currently not known. It was considered by the Incident Executive Group (IEG) as reasonable to assume that scheduled commercial air services to the Island will not commence within the next three months.

IEG was advised several people on-Island and in the UK have registered with the Tourist Office as having an essential or necessary requirement to travel. Accordingly, IEG decided it was becoming necessary to arrange a further charter flight in the next month or two. The Airport Directorate was tasked with looking into affordable options. An update with more details will be issued as soon as practicable.

If you are concerned about departing or returning to St Helena and have not yet registered with the Tourist Office please contact: christina.plato@tourism.co.sh or call: (00290) 22158 to register your details.

Have a flight booked to St Helena?

The advice currently remains that all air arrivals to St Helena are required to undergo a 14-day quarantine at Bradley’s.  The Health Directorate continues to work with Public Health England on the recommended period of quarantine and the period of quarantine is in place to protect the Island community from a potential threat of COVID-19.   

SHG acknowledges that many people have booked to travel to the Island, however being able to travel to St Helena heavily depends on current travel restrictions in South Africa and the origin of travel.

SHG will review its current status and operations on a regular basis.  Any changes will be dependent on a lot of factors that are currently not known (i.e international flights opening up, testing equipment etc).  

Unfortunately during these uncertain times we cannot inform you what will happen in the future.

What advice do you have for people planning to travel to or from a country, or an area of a country, where Covid-19 has been identified?

Currently, entry to St Helena is restricted to Saints and residents. No one sector of the economy or public service is immune from the downturn in income to the Island, with the tourism sector the most visibly impacted at the present time. Many countries around the world are now beginning to find ways with precautions to re-open their borders to business and non-resident visitors.

Taking this into account the IEG has agreed that Entry requirements to St Helena will be amended to permit any foreign national to be allowed to enter St Helena, subject to the established immigration rules, quarantine regulations and testing requirements

All new air arrivals to St Helena will be subject to compulsory quarantine for 14 days.

What about medical referrals?

South Africa continues to accept only urgent and life threatening medical evacuation cases and no accompanying family members.

The Health Directorate is still seeking other options to facilitate medical referrals and the public will be kept updated when more information is known.  

What about Yachts?

Marine vessels including yachts will be allowed to enter port and the crew subsequently permitted to enter St Helena after they have completed 14 days quarantine, display no COVID-19 symptoms and as an extra reassurance have tested negative for COVID-19 on the fourteenth day of quarantine

The 14 days quarantine period for those arriving on marine vessels will now be defined as the absence of COVID-19 for 14 days. The 14 days will be counted to  include days spent at sea (based on official ship’s records),  days spent  quarantining on a vessel in St Helena waters or  days spent quarantining  at Bradley’s Camp  or another suitable  location. This is similar to arrangements in some other overseas territories

How  about the MV Helena?

The MV Helena service must continue. It is the Island’s lifeline. We will be reviewing the process of managing crew contact on a zero interaction basis.

International shipping is continuing around the world and Cape Town Port continues to operate, but on a reduced scale.

What about future supplies for the Island?

International shipping is continuing around the world and Cape Town port continues to operate, but on a reduced scale.

Self-Isolation

I keep hearing references to ‘self-isolate’ but what does that mean?

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.

Self-Isolation – why is it so important?

Self-isolation is a legal requirement and means – the separation of a person from any other person in such a manner as to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the following locations:

At a person’s home, at a hospital; or at another suitable placed as directed by a Proper Officer.

If you fail to comply with the requirements of the regulations then you may be detained and placed in isolation.

We would like to stress that this social responsibility should be taken seriously – to keep the virus off the Island we all need to work together. Members of the public who have been instructed to self-isolate should therefore comply. Anyone aware of someone who is breaking their self-isolation should inform the Hospital or Police Headquarters immediately.

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

Self-Isolation Downloads

Patient Advice Sheet for Self-Isolation 

Self-Isolation Poster 

What is the difference between self-isolation and quarantine?

Quarantine is different from self-isolation as it provides a higher level of monitoring where those quarantined are not only physically separated from the community, but closely monitored to ensure they do not have contact with others. Quarantine means a higher level of control.

If you are concerned about 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.

Volunteering and offering to help

How can I help?

Strong practical measures like 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.

COVID-19. Can you help? 

Business Support

The UK Government is procuring medical equipment and support for each Overseas Territory immediately, and has also made a commitment to stand by the OTs in the long run as they deal with the impacts of the pandemic.

COVID-19 is currently having an impact on the local economy, how is St Helena Government supporting local businesses?  

SHG has approved support mechanisms to reduce the burden on local businesses.

These include: A one-time payment of £325 to any business with an employee who is forced to self-isolate after having returned from overseas on a flight on 14 March 2020 or thereafter, according to SHG preparedness guidance (published 18 March 2020)

A monthly hardship support payment towards a portion of staff costs for businesses in the tourism and hospitality sectors.

What support is in place if I work for the private sector but need to stay at home, either due to being a vulnerable person or to look after my children due to the Creche being closed?

Support is now available to any company with an employee who is advised to stay at home due to vulnerability and are eligible for a one-time payment of £325 per full-time employee, provided the period is not counted against the employee’s sick leave and the employee is compensated at their usual rate for the period they stay at home. Vulnerable people are defined as stated above.  Sole proprietors who meet these conditions will also be eligible for a one-time payment of £325 if they can demonstrate that they are unable to work as a result of being advised to stay at home. Businesses or employers with employees who voluntarily stay at home and are not considered part of a vulnerable population will not be eligible for the support payment.

In addition to this SHG is introducing Business Closure Support as part of the business support package.  Any business that SHG advises to close will be eligible for a one-time payment per owner or full-time employee of £162.50 per week for the duration of the advised closure.  Businesses or employers that voluntarily close without an order or advice from SHG will not be eligible for this payment.

Enterprise St Helena (ESH) – supported by Department for International Development (DfID) and SHG – is also introducing two support measures for privately owned small businesses (nine or fewer full-time equivalent staff) on the island, who derive more than 50% of their income from business activity in an eligible sector. Further information on these support measures are available on the link provided: http://www.investinsthelena.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/COVID-19-Support-Scheme-Guidance-Notes.pdf

SHG offers interest free loan to businesses facing financial hardship due to material shortages

St Helena Government (SHG) has received feedback from businesses, primarily in the construction sector, that the current shortage of raw materials such as cement, timber and steel has prevented them from undertaking work and led to cash flow issues. Recognising the importance of maintaining a strong private sector and supporting employment in the private sector, SHG is offering an interest free loan to businesses that demonstrate financial hardship as a result of material shortages.

The owner of a business or sole proprietorship in any sector would be eligible to apply provided they can demonstrate that shortage of a key production input will prevent them from undertaking work and that this will result in financial hardship. A key production input would be a raw material used by the business. It must be an input into production and therefore would not be stock or assets. Applications must be made by Thursday, 14 May 2020. The application form and guidance on eligibility can be found on the SHG website at: https://www.sainthelena.gov.sh/government/public-information/.

Keeping up to date

How will we be kept 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. Please look out for our regular preparedness updates and Press Releases. Also visit this online Q&A for all the latest news:  https://www.sainthelena.gov.sh/coronavirus-COVID-19-live-qa/.

General advice on COVID-19 continues to be broadcast 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 communitycovid-19@sainthelena.gov.sh or call the Castle switchboard on tel: 22470 where you will be signposted to a relevant officer.

Press Conferences/Releases

Press Conferences

Top Lines – 15 April 2020

Top Lines – 7 April 2020

Top Lines – 30 March 2020

Top Lines – 24 March 2020

Press Releases

Coronavirus (COVID-19) – St Helena Preparedness Update – 24 June 2020

All Residents At Bradley’s Camp Have Completed Quarantine – 5 June 2020

UK Funding Provides Welcome Support For COVID-19 Preparations on St Helena – 4 June 2020

COVID-19 Testing Facilities and Testing Approach on St Helena – 2 June 2020

Statistics Office releases data on potential impact of COVID-19 on St Helena community – 27 May 2020

Bradley’s Camp Quarantine Site – No Visitors Allowed – 21 May 2020

Think Before Stocking Up – V2 – 20 May 2020

South Africa Repatriation Flight – 15 May 2020

Think Before Stocking Up – 11 May 2020

A St Helena Welcome with a difference – 11 arrivals begin their 14-day Quarantine at Bradley’s Camp – 22 April 2020

SHG offers interest free loan to businesses facing financial hardship due to material shortages – 23 April 2020

Robust Measures in Place for Flight Arrivals – 17 April 2020 

St Helena Coronavirus Strategy – 17 April 2020

Coronavirus (Covid-19) St Helena Preparedness Update – 8 April 2020 

Social Distancing Measures in Businesses – 3 April 2020

Coronavirus (Covid-19) St Helena Preparedness Update – 2 April 2020

Message from the Governor to St Helena  – 1 April 2020

Enhanced Social Distancing Measures for St Helena – 31 March 2020

Access Restrictions and Obligations for yachts in St Helena waters – 28 March 2020

Individual in self-isolation with cough and headache – 27 March 2020

Flight Status Update – 26 March 2020

Coronavirus (Covid-19) St Helena Preparedness Update – 25 March 2020

Suspected cases on Ascension Island negative for COVID-19 – 23 March 2020

St Helena Airport – Lifeline for St Helena – 20 March 2020

Airlink flights and South Africa Coronavirus restrictions – 19 March 2020

UK Support for Overseas Territories in response to COVID-19 – 19 March 2020

St Helena Government approves support for local businesses affected by COVID-19 – 19 March 2020

Majority of flight passengers who arrived on 14 March no longer need to self isolate – 19 March 2020

Coronavirus (COVID-19) – St Helena Preparedness Update – 18 March 2020

Three possible COVID-19 cases on Ascension Island – 17 March 2020

Three possible COVID-19 cases on Ascension Island – 17 March 2020

Coronavirus (Covid-19) – St Helena Preparedness Update – 11 March 2020

Coronavirus (Covid-19) – St Helena Preparedness Update – 6 March 2020

Coronavirus (Covid-19) – St Helena Preparedness Update – 26 February 2020

Coronavirus (Covid-19) – St Helena Preparedness Update – 18 February 2020

Coronavirus Update – 4 February 2020

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