Coronavirus (Covid-19): Live Q&A

Updated on 2 April 2020 – 16.16

General Information

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.

Precautions

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.

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

Because the virus can live on metal and plastic surfaces for a period of time and with hand washing facilities and sanitizers in short supply, what would be the best advice for this bearing in mind we touch our faces numerous times during the day out of habit?

We are currently trying to source further supplies. In the mean-time, limit face touching and wash hands regularly when touching surfaces in public places.

Practice Social Distancing

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.

St Helena

Is COVID-19 on St Helena?

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

There are two people on-Island who are experiencing mild symptoms similar to Coronavirus. They have a cough and a headache, but no further symptoms have been reported.

We assess the risk of this being Coronavirus-related as very low.

What is Contract Tracing and how was it used in this situation?

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.

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.

Why wasn’t I contacted to ask to go into self-isolation?

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.

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.

Are there confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Ascension?

Verification tests for suspected cases of COVID-19 on Ascension have been negative.  All remaining passengers both on St Helena and Ascension have been cleared from self-isolation.  

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.

Who is monitoring the situation?

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.

The St Helena Resilience Forum is meeting weekly to ensure a coordinated approach to preparation and response to any threat to the Island from Covid-19.

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

As part of the Command Structure, the Incident Executive Group (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 does enhanced Social Distancing Measures mean for me?

We are advising all vulnerable people (elderly, pregnant women, children, people with underlying health concerns) to stay at home

All vulnerable people i.e. the elderly, pregnant women, children and people with underlying health concerns are advised to stay at home for the next 14 days and work from home if applicable or possible.

People falling into this category would be those over the age of 70 years along with people currently receiving chemotherapy or who have heart disease, uncontrolled diabetes especially with additional chronic conditions, uncontrolled asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

We are advising these people to stay at home but they are still able to go to the shop, collect their Benefits or take some exercise for example. Children can accompany their families to the shop as well as during any outdoor excursion.

Everyone staying at home should adhere to enhanced surfaces cleaning and practice good hand hygiene for both adults and children.

If the advice is not to congregate in a large group, what is the number?

We are discouraging people from congregating in large groups. We haven’t put a specific number on this, as it will depend on venue and how closely confined people are. We would advise people to ensure that appropriate social distancing measures can be practiced.

Bars and restaurants can remain open at the owner’s discretion if they are confident that social distancing measures are possible. 

Can I still visit Care facilities?

If you are intending to visit a care facility such as the CCC or Cape Villa for example, please ensure you check with the facility beforehand to be advised as to whether you can attend or not. If you are permitted to visit, minimise physical contact with the elderly and wash your hands before you enter their room.

What is the advice for passengers who arrived on the flight to St Helena on Saturday, 21 March?

Following Saturday’s flight (21 March), 37 passengers have been asked to self isolate for 14 days as per the new directives of SHG which were agreed on 16 March by the Incident Executive Group (IEG).

These passengers went through rigorous screening at the Airport and are now required to self-isolate for 14 days. If individuals fail to comply they may be detained and placed in isolation.  The Director of Health has the discretion to increase or decrease a period of isolation following a medical and risk assessment.

How have passengers arriving on 21 March been informed about the requirements for self-isolation?

All passengers have been briefed by a Proper Officer (designated by Law) at the Airport on Saturday on the requirements for self-isolation

They have been given a written document with guidance on what self-isolation entails, which has also been posted on the SHG website

Each individual who is in self-isolation is receiving a daily phone call from the Health Directorate, to check that they are okay and discuss any questions they might have.

I have heard that a person who arrived on 21 March has developed symptoms of COVID-19, is this true?

An individual who has been self-isolating since Saturday, 21 March 2020, has reported a cough and headache and has tested negative for the flu.

The public is reassured that this individual has undergone a full medical assessment and has been required by the Senior Medical Officer to:

Remain in their en-suite room and not to come into contact with anyone else. No one is allowed to enter their room

All meals and snacks will be delivered to the room door with single use cutlery

The person must clean their room and bathroom facilities as they would if at home and self-isolating

The Health Directorate has successfully completed contact tracing of all people the person has been in contact with in the 24 hours prior to the onset of the symptoms. The medical advice is that only those persons who have had contact with the individual in the 24 hours prior to the onset of the symptoms needed to be contacted, traced and isolated.

Several people who had contact with the individual concerned in the 24 hours prior to the symptoms onset are assessed as being low risk due to personal protective equipment being worn at all times when interacting with the individual concerned and the rest of the isolated people. Those that need to be in self-isolation are in self-isolation as a precaution.

The people in the same isolation site as the individual concerned will be kept in isolation for a further 14 days starting from today, Friday 27 March 2020. Other persons who arrived on the flight with the individual remain in self-isolation.

Is there an update on the individual reporting a cough and headache?

An individual who has been self-isolating since 21 March reported a cough and headache. That individual remains in self-isolation and is under strict observation to not come out of their room or be in contact with others

The partner of the individual is also in self–isolation after it was identified that they had been in contact with this individual. The partner has also exhibited symptoms of a cough and headache

Today both individuals are stable and making an improvement

All other people who were self-isolating at the same site have been transferred to another suitable location for the rest of their isolation period

We would like to address people’s concerns around self-isolation and who should be self-isolating. The Health Directorate has contact traced all of the people following guidance from WHO. People needing to self-isolate who have been contacted are those who have been in contact with this individual within two days (48 hours) of them exhibiting symptoms and who have had face-to-face contact, been less than one metre apart and have had direct contact without using PPE. Only one person falls into this category

A further 16 people and their families are now self-isolating as a result 

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. Regularly visit this Q&A to get the latest information and advice on preventing the spread of Covid-19.

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 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

What preventative measures are in place on-Island?

Further measures to try and prevent the virus coming to the Island have been agreed:

In an effort to minimise the risk, we are today announcing enhanced social distancing measures to minimise the risk of Coronavirus to the Island, starting from tomorrow at 12noon for 14 days. We are grateful to the public for the social distancing measures they have taken to date and would like to thank the entire community for their support.The Government will do what is necessary to protect the public. Therefore:

We are advising all vulnerable people (elderly, pregnant women, children, people with underlying health concerns) to stay at home.  Schools will remain closed for a further week until after Easter weekend. Crèches are also advised to consider closing

We would advise that people don’t congregate in large groups. Bars and restaurants can still operate at their own discretion

We are restricting visitors to our Care facilities. From tomorrow no one will be allowed to visit any care facilities without prior permission

We look to organisations to continue to take the necessary social distancing measures as they have already been doing

To minimise pressure on our Health Services, elective (non-critical) surgeries at the Hospital will be postponed for 14 days

Outpatient clinics/appointments will be carried out via telephone consultations.

Airlink flights will now be fortnightly. However, the three-week lockdown in South Africa from Thursday, 26 March, has implications for St Helena and will affect the weekly scheduled flight to the Island. Current indications are that the earliest the next scheduled flight will arrive at St Helena is on Saturday, 18 April 2020. This flight will also include the monthly Ascension service on 18 April and will return to the Island on Sunday, 19 April, to depart for Johannesburg the same day. However this is subject to change.

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.

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

Temperature checks are carried out with an automatic temperature reader on all passengers at St Helena Airport.

We have launched a ‘social distancing’ campaign to discourage large gatherings. This coupled with good hand/cough hygiene will help to protect the Island for some time.

Why are temperature checks not being carried out before passengers disembark the plane at St Helena Airport?

Passengers travelling to St Helena are temperature checked at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg before boarding the plane to St Helena. Further temperature checks are also then carried out at St Helena Airport once passengers disembark the aircraft.

We have been informed that Port Health at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg has implemented additional screening measures and all passengers travelling through OR Tambo can now expect to go through a minimum of two Port Health screening points before reaching Immigration Control. 

All passengers including those going through transit are screened by an infrared thermometer and/or a thermal scanner.

Measures and flights for additional screening at OR Tambo are continuously reviewed to reflect changing circumstances.

Wouldn’t the Covid-19 virus affect all passengers on an aircraft?

Due to cabin air filtration systems equipped with high efficiency particulate air filters (HEPA) the risk of contracting a disease from someone on board a plane is lower than in other confined areas such as on a bus.

HEPA have similar performance to those used to keep the air clean in hospital operating rooms and industrial clean rooms. These filters are very effective at trapping microscopic particles as small as bacteria and viruses (a paper providing further information can be found under Download Links).

What if someone arriving by air is a suspected health risk?

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.

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 ?

The three-week lockdown in South Africa starting tonight has resulted in Airlink flights being suspended for at least three weeks.

Airlink has advised that the earliest date the next scheduled flight will arrive on St Helena and travel onwards to Ascension is Saturday, 18 April 2020. This date is not guaranteed and could change if the South African restrictions are extended.  We recommend you regularly review the Airlink website for updates and booking and refund arrangements.

The reality, at this present time, is there are no confirmed scheduled commercial flights to/from South Africa with Airlink.  We are dependent on the lockdown measures being taken in South Africa coming to an end. If anybody is concerned about departing or returning to St Helena please contact Jane Roberts in the Tourist Office on tel: 22158 or email: jane.roberts@tourism.co.sh and register your details.

The Tourist Office is identifying people who need to travel to/from St Helena so that they can be contacted once flight arrangements are confirmed.  The Governor’s Office will inform the Tourist Office when any flight options become available. The Tourist Office will send out email updates to registered people as new information becomes available.

The Tourist Office is not able to engage with your airline, insurance company or booking agent on your behalf.  You should go direct to these organisations to make bookings or get refunds.

What about medical referrals currently in South Africa?

We understand that this is a difficult time for travellers especially those in South Africa needing to get back to the Island. We have several medical referrals and carers currently in Pretoria who will be affected by the travel ban and we are in the process of putting in place arrangements for both our patients and carers to ensure that they are looked after.

What about people arriving by sea?

Restrictions to people arriving by sea are the same as those arriving by air by demonstrating they have been isolated from the risk of COVID-19 for at least 14 days and self-isolation is permitted on their vessels.

Are cruise ships still being allowed to visit the Island?

With immediate effect, we will restrict all cruise ship visits to the Island. This decision will also be reviewed after three months.

What about Yachts?

St Helena is a proud seafaring nation but in these exceptional times restrictions need to impose limits on the access to St Helena by sea. The arrangements in place are intended to strike a workable balance between honouring the needs of ocean-going seafarers and ensuring our community is protected from the COVID-19 virus.

Being a remote island 700 miles or more from another seaport there are international obligations to mariners, such as those described in the SOLAS convention, we should and must honour. This is no different to what we would expect others to do if it were St Helenian seafarers requiring support after a time at sea.

International obligations to protect life include the resupply of water, provisions and fuel; medical attention for sickness or injury; mechanical difficulties and repairs; vessel in distress; and weather-related safety.

Following an IEG meeting today, Saturday 28 March 2020, agreed measures are:

All yachts arriving at St Helena will be required to undergo a 14-day quarantine period from the date of arrival in James Bay. This also applies to recent arrivals

The crews on any yachts may remain in St Helena waters until they are ready to depart for their next destination

Within the 14-day quarantine period no landing of crew on St Helena will be permitted, unless there is an on-board emergency

Before Pratique (medical clearance) is granted, all yachts must fly a yellow flag to indicate that they have not received official clearance from Port and Port Health Authority. This is standard industry practice 

Documents that would be expected to be presented for inspection include:

Official clearance papers from last port of departure

A satisfactorily completed Harbourmaster’s declaration

A satisfactorily completed and checked health declaration

A satisfactorily completed and checked customs declaration

Temperature measurement on or after the fourteenth day to ensure no elevated body temperature

After the 14-day quarantine period all crew will be required to complete the health screening process. The Harbourmaster with support from a medical ‘proper officer’ then has the authority to give a final clearance to land.

We have discouraged any yachts that are now in foreign ports and may be planning to travel to St Helena from setting sail for this destination. Notices to this effect have been posted on yachting websites and through social media. SHG is continuing to contact yacht clubs and ports in South Africa and other countries to state this position.

Security Watchmen are based at the Wharf to ensure these measures are complied with.

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.

We are pleased to advise that the MV Helena is now berthed in Cape Town and is currently undergoing cargo operations. The vessel will depart Cape Town today, Thursday 26 March, and is estimated to arrive at St Helena on Thursday, 2 April.

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?

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.

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

Why is St Helena Government still allowing their officers to travel on official visits?

SHG has restricted official travel for all officers, additionally Councillors have made the decision to cancel their attendance at the Joint Ministerial Council meeting to be held in London later this month.

Wouldn’t frontline staff at our borders be at risk?

All frontline staff at both air and sea borders are receiving regular briefings and are appropriately primed and protected.

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.

What will happen if a person is affected?

An area in Bradleys Camp has been identified as isolation accommodation and a temporary Hospital. The camp is being equipped to provide treatment if needed, and the Health Directorate is in close contact with Public Health England should additional resources need to be requested.

Is there enough space to isolate a large group of people (e.g. ten)?

Bradley’s Camp includes a number of rooms with a separation between those who are healthy and under observation to those who are unwell. The current capacity of Bradley’s Camp is 91.

How will we, as the public, know if there is a confirmed case on-Island?

There have been no passengers identified as suspected cases. The Health Directorate will inform the public of any confirmed case identified.

Could St Helena handle the spread of Covid-19 on-Island with our current resources?

We are working to source critical equipment and supplies to support the anticipated additional demands on the Health Service. We have reprioritised our Technical Cooperation budget to procure additional medical staff and this week you will see an advert asking people with Health experience, to register their names with our HR Directorate.

Is there a test for COVID-19 available on the Island?

A key challenge for us is that we cannot yet conduct conclusive testing for COVID-19 on the Island. A COVID-19 finger prick test will arrive in the next two weeks, and a more advanced test kit is expected on-Island in the next two months.

However, the Hospital can now test for flu and therefore persons arriving on Island with flu-like symptoms can easily be swabbed to test and confirm whether or not they have the flu.

Why is the test for COVID-19 not available on-Island?

When test kits for COVID-19, which are currently under development, are approved for release to laboratories such as St Helena, we will undertake this test on the Island.  

How is the UK Government supporting Overseas Territories at this time?

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.

If we can only currently test for flu then is there any possibility of a misdiagnosis?

The test kits we have on-Island can accurately test for flu.

If a person with flu-like symptoms takes a flu test and results show that they do not have the flu, what will happen next?

If a person is found not to have the flu, then there could be other explanations, such as a recurring respiratory problem. If signs show something new to medical staff, then until test results can confirm the illness, the person will be classed as a suspected case.

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.

We are also planning the setup of 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.

Most people on St Helena don’t live on their own, how would someone isolate themselves in a family home where they would need to have access to bathroom and toilet facilities? 

There are guidelines that are being adapted for such situations to protect other family members. We are developing plans to support people who are requested to self-isolate where necessary, this includes making sure they have access to food and essential supplies.

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.

All passengers arriving on the weekly 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

Self-Isolation guidance is now available for download on the right hand side of this webpage.

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 persons 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.

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.

I can’t buy hand sanitiser? What should I do?

As is to be expected with the ongoing coverage of the COVID-19 outbreak, we are aware there is currently a short supply of hand sanitiser on the Island. However it should be noted that simple hand washing for at least 20 seconds is more effective than sanitising hand gel.

How can I help?

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.

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?

Following the announcement of these measures SHG will be expanding the business support package available to local businesses. 

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.

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. We are increasing the frequency of our updates to the public (see communications schedule below) so please tune into the radio on a daily basis, look out for our regular news releases, Social Media updates 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 COVID-19 Communications Officer Kimberley Peters via email: kimberley.peters@sainthelena.gov.sh or tel: 22470.

Communications Schedule

Mondays -The Governor, Chief Secretary or Financial Secretary will provide a high level brief to the media – setting the scene for the week ahead. This will take place at 11am in the Governor’s Office each Monday and attended by the Media.  

Tuesdays – Press Conference led by the Chair of Public Health updating the public on the political steer following the Monday IEG. This will take place in the Governor’s Office at 2.30pm each Tuesday and will be broadcast on local radio stations and TV.

Wednesdays – Press release incorporating top lines from Monday and Tuesday briefings and any operational updates. To be issued as normal via the Press Office. Press Releases will be published in local media, on this Q&A page and on Social Media.

Thursdays – Radio piece with Councillors Jeffrey Ellick and Cruyff Buckley drawing on key community messages of voluntary social distancing, good hygiene practices, community all working together, business support etc (SAMS 9.30am) (St FM 10am)  

Fridays – Radio interviews with Director of Health and Chief of Police updating the public on the operational side. To take place at  (SAMS 9am ) and (St FM 9.30am)

Director of Health, Ted Rayment:

“We recommend that our people avoid non-essential travel to China. Travelers who get ill while travelling in China may have limited access to timely and appropriate health care.

“We have a good inventory of personal protective equipment ordered during the Ebola concerns. Our advice to the general public is to ensure infection control with hand washing and disinfection solutions. Avoid close contact with people suffering from respiratory infections. People with symptoms of acute respiratory infection should practice cough etiquette (maintain distance, cover coughs and sneezes with disposable tissues or clothing and wash hands).

“We will continue to monitor the situation and provide regular updates.”

Press Conferences

Top Lines – 30 March 2020

Top Lines – 24 March 2020

Self-Isolation

Patient Advice Sheet for Self-Isolation 

Self-Isolation Poster 

COVID-19. Can you help? 

Download Links

St Helena Travel Restrictions – 18 March 2020

IATA Briefing Paper – Cabin Air Quality

Press Releases

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

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