Though there have not yet been any confirmed cases of the Coronavirus in much of the Caribbean, the islands are taking precaution due to the global outbreak of the disease. Here’s what you need to know to keep your clients informed and their travel plans in check.
St. Kitts & Nevis
The destination has strengthened surveillance and pre-emptive healthcare procedures at its air and seaports, as well as throughout the islands. The health system has moved to detect, contain, and manage the situation in the event the virus reaches the Federation.
- At St. Kitts’ Robert L. Bradshaw International Airport, all incoming air passengers to the Federation must at all times complete question #17 of the Customs/Immigration Form, which requires a listing of “countries visited during last six weeks.”
- At the cruise port, inspectors from the Environmental Health Department board each vessel that docks to review the passenger travel manifest, and all medical reports for any passengers exhibiting flu-like symptoms. Any passenger displaying such symptoms is not permitted to disembark.
- Any and all incoming passengers who have travelled to or from any of the following countries within the last 14 days will be asked to provide travel history, history of exposure to the virus and contact information: China, Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, Italy, Japan and Iran.
- Persons traveling to/from these destinations within the last 14 days are asked not to travel to St. Kitts & Nevis. Persons who do travel to St. Kitts & Nevis from these destinations will be subject to screening at the ports of entry and may bemonitored by the public health team or quarantined at home or at a designated facility based on risk assessment.
- The Federation of St. Kitts & Nevis reserves the right to deny entry to any non-Nationals who have visited the countries listed above within the incubation period of 14 days. Nationals and/or residents who have visited those countries within the 14-day incubation period will be required to go through the established screening process.
St. Kitts & Nevis is complying with International Health Regulations and reporting to the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) / the World Health Organization (WHO) as appropriate. Following the WHO’s declaration on Jan. 30th, 2020 that the outbreak of the Coronavirus constitutes a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, the Government of St. Kitts and Nevis advises citizens and residents to restrict travel to the aforementioned destinations until the WHO gives the all clear in relation to the COVID-19.
The Ministry of Health is working closely with the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and all appropriate government agencies to execute national disaster preparedness and response plans so as to prevent, monitor and manage the spread of the virus if and when a national or visitor tests positive for the virus. The Disaster Mitigation Council is in place to handle the response to the disease and the Ministry of Health has conducted training exercises with frontline workers including police and immigrations and customs officers.
Saint Lucia’s Department of Health and Wellness is working with all pertinent government agencies on island to execute The National Preparedness and Response Plan for COVID-19. At the time of publication for this story, Saint Lucia has not reported any cases of the coronavirus.
The Department of Health and Wellness has noted an escalation in the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 internationally, as well as the spread to countries outside of China. Saint Lucia remains open for business, and in an effort to restrict the likelihood of the introduction of COVID-19 into Saint Lucia, the Department of Health and Wellness on Feb. 4, 2020 put in place travel restrictions on non-nationals with a travel history within the last 14 days from Mainland China; whether in-transit or originating.
As of Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2020, the travel restrictions were extended to other jurisdictions including Hong Kong, the Republic of Korea, Italy, and Singapore. In addition, any Saint Lucian national returning to Saint Lucia with a travel history to any of the mentioned countries will be quarantined for 14 days.
The Department of Health and Wellness continues to work closely with the regional agencies in the management of the threat of Coronavirus.
In the interim, the public is reminded to continue practicing the standard recommendations to prevent the spread of infection.
Saint Martin and Sint Maarten
This past Sunday, The Prime Minister Hon. Silveria Jacobs activated the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) in connection with two confirmed cases of the coronavirus COVID-19 on French side of Saint Martin. These persons are currently in isolation at the hospital on the French side and will remain there for 14-days according to the Prefecture.
The EOC has been activated to continue with the preparedness, response and mitigation measures that need to be taken in connection with the coronavirus COVID-19 and will continue to function on a heightened level of awareness. However, there are zero cases of suspected or confirmed COVID-19 on Dutch Sint Maarten at this time. The screening processes at the ports of entry have been stepped up in cooperation with the airlines who are also following their own screening protocols based on World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations.
The Dutch side has been working closely with French-side counterparts prior to the confirmed cases and will continue to work together in the coming days, weeks and months ahead.
The public health of the people and visitors to Sint Maarten is a top priority of the Government to ensure the health and safety of the people of Sint Maarten.
The various Government ministries of Sint Maarten, such as the Ministry of Justice, Public Health, and Tourism along with key stakeholders such as the ports of entry have protocols in place to deal with any probable cases of COVID-19.
The Princess Juliana International Airport has implemented its infectious disease protocols with respect to the two French nationals who were isolated and examined at the airport prior to being transported to the French side hospital for further medical examination.
The Government of Sint Maarten and its respective ministries, especially Public Health, is working closely with the Netherlands National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) who will be the key organization to handle any testing requirements should they come up regarding a suspected case.
The Netherlands has a number of cases of COVID-19, and the Government of Sint Maarten understands what measures are being taken by its Kingdom partner to contain the virus. All Kingdom partners are working under the same international guidelines as provided by the WHO.
The St. Maarten Medical Center has a capacity to handle four COVID-19 cases, and should there be more than that, the Government of Sint Maarten has already reached out to its international and Kingdom partners for capacity and resource assistance should that be necessary.
The Government of Sint Maarten is in contact with the United Nations (UN) Disaster Assistance & Coordination organization as well as with other UN associated disaster agencies in preparing its stepped-up approach and response to protect the public health of Sint Maarteners and visitors.
Ministry VSA continues to make national and response preparations that are in line with International Health Regulations (IHR) and local health sector regulations (Public Health Ordinance of Sint Maarten).
As part of CPSs increased surveillance activities (Infection prevention and Control, public health stakeholders and other entities, have been trained in the use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) when they have to deal with a suspected case of COVID-19.
The Ministry of Public Health continues to follow guidance from its regional and international partners concerning COVID-19 such as the Pan American Health Organization and the World Health Organization.
Protocols at ports of entry entails that based on health information provided of passengers, if necessary, the person or persons will be isolated, and these protocols will continue to be followed by ports of entry. Airlines and cruise line companies for example have their own screening protocols to follow as a first line of screening whether a passenger would be allowed to board a flight or cruise ship; the Sint Maarten Immigration and Border Control also has its own screening protocol at ports of entry and in collaboration with Public Health, have already been active. Local officials can request additional information of passengers such as travel history in order to determine if they have traveled to countries or regions where COVID-19 clusters exist.
The Caribbean’s Battle Against Coronavirus
The Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) raised the risk level of coronavirus (COVID-19) to the Caribbean from low to moderate to high yesterday and encouraged regional tourism leaders to be ready to respond to possible importation of cases and local transmission.
At the same time, the health agency assured ministers and directors of tourism and other senior tourism officials, that while there have been no cases of local transmission—the two cases reported in St. Martin and one in the Dominican Republic were all imported—it was working closely with member countries and Caribbean coordinating partners such as the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) on ways to prevent further transmission from any possible imported cases.
The assurance came at COVID-19 information session for member governments coordinated by the CTO and facilitated by CARPHA. Yesterday’s session was part of the CTO’s program of full engagement in the regional response to the COVID-19 outbreak, in collaboration with CARPHA, the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency, the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association and the Global Tourism Resilience Centre.
For more information on COVID-19, please visit who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019, cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html and/or carpha.org/What-We-Do/Public-Health/Novel-Coronavirus.