Minister for Health the Hon Dwayne Seymour was joined by Chief Medical Officer, Dr. John Lee, Medical Officer of Health Dr Samuel Williams; and Deputy Director of Customs and Border Control, Mr Gary Wong to inform the public about the Novel Coronavirus which has been spreading to many different countries from China where it was first observed. So far there have not been any cases of the virus in the Cayman Islands.
Mr. Seymour said: “As minister of health my first priority is to assure the people of the Cayman Islands that the Ministry and the Public Health Department along with all stakeholders have been working tirelessly to ensure your safety. Rest assured we are ready to deal with this virus should it arrive on our shores. There have been 14,557 confirmed cases worldwide with 23 countries other than China reporting cases. The World Health Organisation has reported the risk as ‘High,’ and there have been over 300 deaths. There is an action plan in place which all parties are executing as needed. All registered practitioners have been provided with information, on this public health threat through the Department of Health and Regulatory Services. The Department of Public Health held a multi-sector meeting on Wednesday 29 January, and amongst the attendees were senior members of Custom and Border Control, the Port Authority, the Airports Authority, the Ministry of Tourism, and staff from across the Health Services Authority.
“The Public health department is having ongoing communication with Cayman Airways, offering ongoing help and advice. The customs and border patrol officers are already screening all arriving passengers for travel histories to China, who will be notified to the Public Health Department. Public health will monitor any at-risk individuals for their incubation period, and support their healthcare needs as necessary.
“We have to count on the community to do their part as well. What we know so far, that transmission from people with no symptoms is not likely to be a major form of transmission. People who have symptoms will spread the virus more readily through coughing and sneezing. Whether you are travelling or not, the public is advised to practice general prevention control measures, such as frequent cleansing with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, covering nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing, avoiding close contact with people suffering from acute respiratory infection.
I recommend that all Caribbean or Caymanian Citizens should postpone their travel to China until the All-Clear is given.”
Mr. Seymour said that if anyone felt they may have symptoms, even if they think they might be ordinary flu symptoms, they should come forward to seek help from health practitioners, and that government health services was operating an “nobody gets turned away,” policy in this regard, to encourage people to come forward for help even if they do not have health insurance.
Dr. John Lee said: “I am confident that Cayman is ready to tackle any threats that come to our shores in this regard. Mortality rate from the disease at 2 percent and we can take some reassurance that both the mortality as well as its infectivity is low compared to other pandemics that we have suffered. But there is quite a high incidence of severe illness it is around 15 percent. I would encourage everyone to educate themselves as well as they can in regard to the virus and would reiterate the need hygiene hand with soap and water hand sanitizer and keep a good distance from people with acute respiratory infections. If you are travelling, stay clear from wild animals and farm animals.
Dr. Samuel Williams said: “It is important for the public to know this is a new virus, and there are a lot of unknowns about this virus. We have been in constant communications with international health organizations and have been receiving guidance on the way forward. We would advise you to visit the H.S.A website where you can access a lot of new information.”