The setting up of a quarantine area at the Territory’s ports of entry is part of the extensive system and plan to stave off the corona virus from entering BVI shores. This plan was outlined by Minister for Health and Social Development Hon. Carvin Malone at a Third District public meeting held on 30 January.
The outbreak of respiratory illness that is caused by a novel (new) corona virus was first reported in Wuhan, Hubei Province in China and has since spread to other countries. This spreading of the virus has sent countries around the world into protection mode, and the BVI is no exception.
In noting that a plan is in place to prevent the arrival and spreading of the virus here, Hon. Malone told the gathering in Sea Cows Bay: “This is now a global issue the entire corona virus…Coming out of the meeting we had a number of suggestions which I would incorporate… into the strategy that we have as we move forward.”
The Minister said that on 30 January there was a meeting of Cabinet, the Chairman of the Quarantine Authority, the Chief Medical Officer, the CEO of the BVIHSA and other key persons where various preventative initiatives were decided on.
The Minister for Health said, “We have made recommendations recommending everyone to take precautions, preventative measures such as proper handwashing techniques. Encouraging the use of proper protective equipment by health workers so that you will see these guys in almost hazmat type suits so that they will be able to protect themselves because health workers are the most susceptible to the spread of these virus and you have to make sure that they are protected in every way.”
In further noting the strategy the Minister said that health officials would be conducting training programmes and implementing advance processes for the effective management of ill passengers at all ports of entry.
Hon. Malone assured that the BVI borders are prepped and ready. “I have already made calls and we have a number of equipment that can point straight at your forehead and take temperature and different things. We are going to have that implemented, we are going to purchase a number of these so that whether it’s at the airport, the seaport or the other major ports of entry we will be able to deploy persons who can use these equipments so that we can test for high fevers and after that we can then monitor where you have travelled in the previous days; so if you are travelling from a high risk post and you have high fever then you become a suspect and additional tests can be administered,” the Minister stated.
The Minister for Health said, “We are going to meet also with the seaports and airports authority and health officers from various islands because our passengers come in through St Thomas. They fly into St Thomas and then they come over here. They fly into Puerto Rico and then they come over here. They fly into St Maarten and then come over here…from international ports. We want to make sure also that they are doubling up on the protocols so that at the end of the day if they are doing the screening, then when we do the additional screening we’ll know that we have done all that we could to identify the various cases and make sure that this is done in a way that will be pleasing to the populace. That would be prudent in making sure that we catch it early and that we have this done.”
As it relates to the quarantine Hon. Malone noted that two options are being mulled. “There is a quarantine area that we have to look at the various ports also. This is either going to be a fixed area where if someone is suspected and questioned then they can be quarantined until when they can get them to a more permanent quarantine area for a 14 day period. If we don’t have the space then they have medical tents that could be setup and equipped for this particular purpose. We are going to look at that also and ensure that this is done.”
Additional information on the Territory’s preparation to handle the Corona virus was provided on 4 February during the Chief Environmental Health Officer Lionel Michael during his feature on PSI radio explained that people coming to the BVI ports from China and other affected countries will be required to fill out a short questionnaire about their travel history, signs and symptoms.
“We’ll be giving out what we call alert cards. That is to say even though you have now symptoms coming in we’ll give you a card telling you about the signs and symptoms of the virus and key contact numbers that you can call in case you develop any of the signs and symptoms, Michael stated.
The Chief Environmental Health Officer also announced that there was a minor chance that the BVI would see the corona virus. “If you are coming from China you definitely will be quarantined up to 14 days. Why I say the risk is low is because people coming from China to the BVI will go through several layers,” he explained.