Published On: Sat, Jan 25th, 2020

On alert: St. Maarten taking precautions after China virus outbreak

PHILIPBURG — Interim Minister of Public Health, Labour and Social Affairs (VSA) Pamela Gordon-Carty is confident in the St. Maarten surveillance system for the deadly Novel Coronavirus (nCoV). “There is no reason to panic. While the immediate risk of infection from the virus to the general public remains low, we are taking all precautions necessary.”

The minister organized a press meeting Saturday afternoon to reassure the public that the Novel Coronavirus has full attention of the public health sector. “Everyone is looking to know what this virus is exactly and if it is affecting the island of St. Maarten. At the moment, basically that is not the case,” says Gordon-Carty. “We have a lot of contact with different stakeholders and organizations abroad that are informing us of the steps that need to be taken. These days we are in close contact with the hospital and we have received information that all protocols are being followed. I checked with the hospital about quarantine, about isolation rooms, and it was confirmed that they have everything under control and that everybody is informed about what needs to happen.”

On January 9 the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that a 2019 Novel Coronavirus was identified by Chinese authorities. The virus was first identified in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China. According to national and provincial health authorities, 42 deaths have been confirmed. More than 1400 people have been infected with the virus.

In China, at least 10 cities, and at least 33 million people, have been put on lockdown — all in central China’s Hubei province, on the eve of the Lunar New Year, when millions of Chinese traditionally travel. But the disease already spread outside mainland China to thirteen countries, most of them in Southeast Asia.

The only European country affected is France, with three cases identified. In the United States two cases have been reported so far. Three major US airports – San Francisco International Airport (SFO), Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York (JFK) – have announced they will screen travelers arriving from Wuhan.

Minister of Health Pamela Gordon Carty - SG TEATT Miquel De Weever - 20200125 JHThe United States and France are the only two affected countries with which the island of St. Maarten has direct flight connections. Ministry of Tourism (TEATT) Acting Secretary-General Miguel de Weever says the airport is on alert. “If necessary, screening of passengers will take place.” While investigations into the coronavirus are ongoing, the port is also taking precautions, says De Weever. “According to international regulations, the port requires ships to report immediately any death or certain illnesses among the ship’s passengers or crew.” In case of a health outbreak at sea, passengers will not be allowed to disembark in St. Maarten, De Weever emphasizes. Cruise lines Carnival Corp and Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd have issued statements that they aren’t allowing anyone who lives in or recently passed through Wuhan to board.

Minister of Health Pamela Gordon Carty - Dr. Earl Best - 20200125 JHAt the moment, for St. Maarten there is no need to shut down borders, says Inspector General of Public Health Dr. Earl Best. “We are making sure that all the relevant institutions, hospital, airport, port are being warned, that they are aware of the situation and that they have action plans ready to execute.” If a passenger on a ship or flight is suspected of being infected with the virus, then St. Maarten will follow the example of the United States and implement stringent measures, assures Dr. Best.

Maria Henry, representative of CPS (Head of the Section General Health Care), informs that St. Maarten is closely following the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) which is urging countries in the Caribbean and Latin America region to be prepared for the early detection and isolation of persons infected. Presently, there have been no confirmed cases or reports of the 2019-nCoV in the Caribbean region and based on current information, the immediate health risk from this virus to the general public remains low.

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Related links:

Video recording press briefing Minister of Health regarding Coronavirus by 721news
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