Minister of Health Dr. Christopher Tufton this afternoon appealed for calm while announcing that Jamaica has confirmed its first case of the deadly and infectious coronavirus disease 2019, (COVID-19).
He told an emergency press conference in Kingston that the first confirmed patient is a young woman who arrived in Jamaica from the United Kingdom on March 4.
She is from the border between St. Thomas and St. Andrew, the health minister added.
“Jamaica today confirmed its first imported case of COVID-19 here in Kingston. The patient is a Jamaican female who had travelled from the United Kingdom, which has cases of COVID-19. She arrived in the island on March 4, presented to the public health system on March 9 and has been in isolation since then.”
Dr. Tufton continued: “Based on the patient’s travel history and symptoms, health professionals suspected COVID-19. A clinical sample was collected and sent to the National Influenza Centre, where laboratory tests confirmed the diagnosis today at approximately 11AM. The patient and family members have been informed… I want to use this opportunity to appeal to the public to remain calm…”
The health minister added that steps are being taken to prevent the risk of community spread.
Those steps, Dr. Tufton explained, includes the dispatch of a health team to the home of the patient for assessment and initiation of public health measures.
The authorities are also doing an identification and contact tracing for all possible exposed persons in relation to the woman.
The minister, in the meantime, disclosed that Jamaica has imposed travel restrictions on three more countries – Spain, France and Germany – in an effort to minimize the spread of COVID-19. The countries previously announced are China, Italy, South Korea, Singapore, and Iran.
Dr. Tufton did not give a definitive answer when asked if the island will also impose travel restrictions on the United Kingdom.
He said non-essential travel as well as public gatherings are discouraged.
Jamaica already has four quarantine facilities and more are being identified, the minister said.
His ministry this morning stated that, up to yesterday, some 23 people were in quarantine at government facilities and seven in home quarantine.
The virus already killed 3,584 people overseas.
To help prevent the spread of COVID-19, people can do the following:
- Maintain a distance of at least one metre from persons who are coughing or sneezing.
- Frequently perform hand hygiene by washing hands thoroughly with soap and water or using a hand sanitizer if hands are not visibly soiled.
- Cover our mouths and noses with a tissue when coughing or sneezing, and then discarding it.
- And resist the habit to touch our faces.
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