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.

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 and Coronavirus Strategy is in place and is continuously reviewed 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

The IEG are considering a request from the Ascension Island Government to introduce reciprocal arrangements for any passengers travelling from Ascension Island on future charter flights.

The arrangements would see passengers from Ascension, which is COVID-19 free, able to self-isolate in their own homes instead of undergoing the 14-day quarantine at Bradley’s Camp.

A clear set of operating procedures are being developed by the Health Directorate on how self-isolation at home would be managed. This document would then go to a meeting of Legislative Council as soon as possible for their discussion and approval.

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.

St Helena Airport

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. 

When is the next scheduled flight?

International flights have resumed in South Africa. Discussions are underway with Airlink on when and how the scheduled flight service will return to St Helena.

Isolation vs Quarantine

What is the difference between quarantine and isolation?

Isolation and quarantine are public health practices used to protect the public by preventing exposure to people who have or may have a contagious disease.

  • Isolation separates sick people with a contagious disease, or people showing symptoms of a contagious disease, from people who are not sick.
  • Quarantine separates and restricts the movement of people who may have been exposed to a contagious disease to see if they become sick.

There is a clear difference between isolation and quarantine and this should not be confused.

Quarantine is a preventative measure, used as a border control process to prevent COVID-19 from reaching the Island community through early detection of a possible infected person in new arrivals to St Helena. A two-week period of quarantine is mandatory upon arrival to the Island.

Self-Isolation is used when a person presents symptoms of COVID-19 or tests positive for COVID-19. This person would be asked to isolate themselves from other persons to prevent spread of the virus.

Self-Isolation, how it works and steps to make it easier?

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/or 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 antibacterial 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, exercising, gardening and watching films. When you are feeling better, remember that physical exercise can be good for your wellbeing

If your symptoms worsen during self-isolation or are no better after 14 days, contact the St Helena Coronavirus/Flu hotline on 25707. For a medical emergency dial 911. You might need to be transported to the Medical Facility at Bradley’s for medical assessment and assistance.

What happens if I breach quarantine or self-isolation?

Both quarantine (whether at a facility, your home, or another property approved by a Proper Officer) and self-isolation are legal requirements.

This is a very serious matter, and there is a maximum penalty of a fine of £5,000 or imprisonment for six months, or both, in place to deter people from failing to comply with the requirements of the regulations.

If, at the time of committing the breach, the person knew that he or she was infected or contaminated with coronavirus, the maximum period of
imprisonment increases to 12 months.

See Public Health (Prevention of Formidable Diseases) (Coronavirus No. 2) Regulations, 2020.

Business Support

The UK Government has procured medical equipment and support for each Overseas Territory, 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?  

Executive Council has approved a second phase of hardship support effective from 1 July 2020 for local businesses in the hospitality sector impacted by COVID-19. The aim of this support is to keep people in the hospitality sector on-Island in employment.

Recognising that a lower number of visitors typically arrive on St Helena during the winter months, this second phase of hardship support is targeted at tourist accommodation providers,  tourism activity providers and restaurants – the sectors most highly impacted by the disruption in scheduled commercial flights.

Due to the evolving situation, SHG will continue to evaluate the impacts of COVID-19 response measures and this Support Package will be reassessed in September 2020.

What type of support is available?

The following support packages are available up until end-September 2020. Each eligible business can make one application.  Where several businesses are under the same ownership, or operating out of one building, the funding is limited to one grant.

Hardship Support

Hardship Support is available to owners of companies and sole proprietorships for whom more than half of their annual income is earned in the following sectors:

  • Tourist accommodation providers (Note: Tourism Accommodation means premises that are rented out on a short-term basis (i.e. 30 days or less) and is currently unoccupied)
  • Tourism activity providers, including both land- and marine-based
  • Restaurants (dine-in establishments).

Essential Cost Assistance Grants

Affected businesses can also apply for an Essential Cost Assistance Grant of up to a maximum of £500 towards essential costs for business premises, i.e. rent, utilities, internet costs or business insurance.  Businesses in these specific sectors, will need to submit with the application form, the relative invoice or receipt if payment had already been made, for the period July-September 2020, bearing in mind that refunds to businesses need to be undertaken by no later than 30 September 2020.

Full details of both the Hardship Support Package and the Essential Cost Assistance Grants can be found on the SHG website at the following link: https://www.sainthelena.gov.sh/government/public-information/

What about support for extended sick leave and forced business closure?

As the Island continues to remain COVID-19 free with no scheduled commercial flights to the Island and the relaxing of physical (social) distancing measures, the previous Extended Sick Leave and Enforced Business Closure Support Schemes from SHG and the Adjustment Scheme from ESH will not be continued.

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/.

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.