Jamaica has imposed travel restrictions on an additional three countries because of the dreaded novel coronavirus (COVID-19) which is spreading fast around the globe and has now been recorded in the island.
Three European countries – Spain, France and Germany – have been added to the list of five, joining China, Italy, South Korea, Singapore, and Iran.
The development comes as Jamaica on Tuesday reported its first case of COVID-19, an imported one involving a woman who has dual Jamaican-UK citizenship.
The Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr Christopher Tufton, made the announcement at a hastily-called press conference at his New Kingston-based ministry, where he disclosed that the woman arrived in the island from the UK on March 4 and showed no symptoms. Having developed symptoms on March 9, she went to her doctor and test results came back Tuesday which showed that she had contracted the coronavirus.
COVID-19, which has already killed some 4,000 people worldwide and infected over 100,000, has triggered global concern.
While the outbreak is easing in China, where the virus was first detected, fast-growing clusters have turned up in South Korea, Japan, Iran and Italy, and the caseload is growing in the United States.
Tufton said he met Tuesday morning with the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator Kamina Johnson Smith, the ambassadors of the affected countries, as well as the ambassador for the EU.
Tufton said he has informed them that “based on the risk assessment of community spread of the virus in those countries that travel restrictions would be imposed”.
Additionally, the Minister advised that public gatherings are being discouraged at this time, as well as non-essential travel. He said the authorities continue to patrol irregular border crossings. Also, sensitisation of key personnel at all air and sea ports is ongoing.
Tufton repeated that there are four designated quarantine facilities on the island and others will be identified.
“We are finalising the retrofitting of isolation facilities in each of the island’s public hospitals,” he stated.
In terms of the readiness of the island’s public health system, Tufton said the Ministry has:
*Developed the local capacity to test for the virus, thanks to training provided by the Pan-American Health Organization. He said “It is on that capacity that we relied for this test result”.
*Assessed the readiness of our health facilities to meet the anticipated increase in demand on services.
*Continue to address existing gaps, including with respect of additional supplies and equipment, though, at the present time, we have enough personal protective equipment in the island for our health facilities. We also have adequate stores of respiratory medicine for the next three months.
*Trained and continue to train health care providers.