Following yesterday’s (March 13, 2020) announcement by the Antigua and Barbuda Government, Montserrat’s Ministry of Health and Social Services, in collaboration with Montserrat’s Integrated Border Security, are reviewing visitors who were on the same flight as the confirmed case in Antigua.
Today, March 14th, the Ministry of Health and Social Services, announced that as part of contact tracing following yesterday’s reported case in Antigua, that there is one (1) suspected case of COVID-19 in Montserrat.
The Ministry has been investigating the suspected case of COVID-19, who had reported symptoms consistent with the disease. The patient is someone who is visiting from the UK, where the COVID-19 virus is circulating.
“The facts of this case are that on March 10th, this person arrived in Antigua from the United Kingdom onboard British Airways flight 2157, which was transporting a passenger whom the Antiguan authorities identified as Positive for COVID-19. Our suspected case transited onto Montserrat the same day,” explained Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Dr. Sharra Greenaway-Duberry.
Dr. Greenaway-Duberry, who is also the Quarantine Authority, further noted that the patient is currently under ‘home isolation’ at their accommodation in Montserrat, having reported some symptoms associated with COVID-19.
Samples were taken and arrangements made for their testing with the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) in Trinidad. The health officials are also tracing the patient’s contacts during travel and since arriving in Montserrat.
Due to the proximity or potential contact with the original Antiguan COVID-19 case on the British Airways flight, another identified individual was placed in Government quarantine for 14 days within a government designated quarantine facility. This person is not displaying any symptoms. The health officials will be monitoring them for signs of the disease.
“At this point in time, the Ministry of Health has made contact with around 60% of persons that came to Montserrat who were on the same flight as the reported case in Antigua. Those persons and any other members of the household have been asked to ‘home quarantine’ until the health officials can get more information and contact all the remaining persons that were on the flight,” stated Dr. Greenaway-Duberry.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health and Social Services, Mrs. Camille Thomas-Gerald added, “This situation evolved rapidly and it is a demonstration of how prepared the health officials were and continue to be in identifying possible coronavirus sufferers and dealing with the cases as appropriate.”
The Ministry of Health is emphasizing the need for members of the public to remain calm. “We understand that people are concerned and every effort is being made to leave no stone unturned in tracing any other persons with whom any suspected cases may have been in contact. Although Montserrat has no confirmed cases of COVID-19 to date, the government has been working tirelessly to prevent, detect, manage and contain any potential outbreak in Montserrat as a matter of public health emergency,” stated Mrs. Thomas-Gerald.
The Ministry of Health and Social Services has been working closely with the medical experts and professionals of the UK’s Public Health England, the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), the World Health Organisation (WHO), Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), CARICOM and the OECS. The government has been preparing for an event like this as part of the International Health Regulations.
The Ministry is reminding persons who have visited affected countries (including the UK and USA) and who have subsequently developed symptoms of the coronavirus, that they should stay at home and contact the Casualty Department at the Glendon Hospital on 491 2802 or 491 2836.
The Ministry will continue to update the public as more information becomes available regarding this and the on-going COVID-19 situation, and is reminding the public that in this ever-connected world we cannot hide from outbreaks; this is a global pandemic with countries around us succumbing to the relenting and growing reach of the virus.
Everyone is encouraged to take personal responsibility in trying to minimize the risk of exposure and spread in Montserrat by taking these simple precautions:
1. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or use an alcohol-based sanitizing gel
2. When coughing or sneezing, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your flexed elbow dispose of the tissue immediately and wash your hands
3. Avoid close contact with anyone who has coughing and fever
4. And practice social distancing
Remember, those who are most at risk are the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions, such as hypertension, heart disease and diabetes. Let us do everything in our power to protect our people.
The Ministry of Health and Social Services will continue to update the public as the situation evolves.