‘No suspected case of Coronavirus’–Min Lawrence

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Minister of Public Health, Volda Lawrence

– 23 who returned from China quarantined, under home monitoring

ACCORDING to global statistics, some 40,000 persons, worldwide, have been infected with the Coronavirus, but despite the increasing number of cases, Guyana has remained safe from the disease.

In response to the global epidemic, Guyana has strengthened its monitoring systems at the various ports of entry and has even instituted travel restrictions on persons coming from China.

“We have no suspected cases of the Coronavirus in Guyana,” said Minister of Public Health, Volda Lawrence in an invited comment, on Wednesday. The minister’s statement was supported by the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC), which, in response to ‘malicious’ and ‘false’ reports on social media, said there has been no case of the Coronavirus at the hospital.

“No person has been treated at the facility for the virus nor has anyone been transferred from GPHC with coronavirus…moreover, no patient has been diagnosed with the virus throughout the country,” said management of the GPHC, in a press statement.

The public health ministry has since lodged a complaint, with the Commissioner of Police, Leslie James, on the matter regarding ‘malicious’ and ‘false’ reports on social media. In light of this occurrence, the ministry has appealed to Guyanese and other nationals here to stay informed and seek information from reliable and reputable sources such as the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) and the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The ministry cautioned the nation not to fall victims of questionable or unverified information regarding the virus, and rather to contact the Ministry of Public Health at telephone numbers 226-1224, 226-7457 or the ministry’s Hotline Tel: 223-7139/9.

According to CARPHA, Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). The coronavirus outbreak originated in Wuhan, China, and has since spread to many other countries, including some in the Americas.

Common signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, coughs, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death. Some persons who recently returned to Guyana from China, were placed under “home monitoring,” but have not shown symptom of the Coronavirus.

Speaking about the persons who were monitored, Minister Lawrence said: “We have had about 22 to 23, and we are sending them off after the 14 days.” Health officials had described the home monitoring system as a process of allowing persons to stay at home, but be isolated from their families. Those persons, during the 14-day incubation period, will also be required to take necessary precautions and not leave their home until the period is over.

While Guyana has remained resilient against the global outbreak, Minister Lawrence said persons must be cognisant that the World Health Organisation (WHO) has listed the Coronavirus as “level three.” “When they speak of level three, this is the maximum level of severity,” said the minister, noting that it shows the global state of emergency.

Guyana Chronicle, in a past report, had quoted Minister Lawrence as saying: “Let me assure the Guyanese pubic that all efforts to maintain vigilance and monitoring of the virus are in place. “We have put several measures in place and have increased surveillance at the country’s ports of entry with strengthened specialised training in all categories of workers.”
Since the outbreak, port health authorities at the main, official points of entry had commenced screening of all travellers from high-risk countries. Among the menu of measures put in place by the MoPH officials was to conduct follow-up assessments via telephone calls and through daily visits over a two-week period on all persons who travelled from China to Guyana over the last month to check on their state of health.

“While this virus started off in China, as a Region, we are flagging all high-risk countries,” Lawrence said. The public health ministry had advised Guyanese to avoid travelling to high-risk countries and maintain established hand-washing and hand-hygiene measures and to report to the nearest health facility should you experience any respiratory (breathing) problems.

The Maritime Administration Department (MARAD), in view of the Novel Coronavirus, had also stipulated that international vessels, calling in at the Port of Georgetown and Berbice, will be required to provide a crew list and their nationality; the vessel’s last port of call; and the shore leave of the crew within the last 21 days, to the administration.

“Ship crew who feel unwell, experience respiratory symptoms or feel feverish should inform the master of the ship immediately. The master of the ship should then contact his ship’s agent and make the necessary arrangements to seek medical attention,” said MARAD.
Crew with recent travel history in Hubei, Wuhan, or with People’s Republic of China (PRC) passports will not be allowed entry into Guyana. Also, vessels that refuse to comply with the aforementioned instructions may be denied entry into the country’s waters.

In the interim, MARAD intends to continue monitoring the evolving situation and work closely with the industry to implement additional measures if needed.

Regionally, CARPHA had announced that its Medical Microbiology Laboratory (CMML) is fully equipped and ready to test samples of suspected cases of the Coronavirus.

“The agency is equipped to investigate and manage communicable diseases. In the event of the suspicion of an outbreak in the region, member states have specific protocols to follow in their investigation process which includes sending the samples to CARPHA. We are prepared to receive and test samples of suspected cases of the 2019-nCoV with immediate effect,” said Executive Director of CARPHA, Dr. Joy St. John.

The reference laboratory is accredited by the Jamaica National Agency for Accreditation (JANAAC) to the international standard for medical laboratories, ISO 15189:2012.
Additionally, all laboratory technicians are certified to handle and transport infectious samples in accordance with the World Health Organisation (WHO)’s guidance on regulations for the transport of infectious substances, developed with the help of the International Air Transport Association (IATA).