WHO declares the Coronavirus 2019-nCoV a Public Health Emergency of International Concern

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World Health Organization Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

 

GREAT BAY, Sint Maarten (DCOMM) – The World Health Organization (WHO) Emergency Committee met on Thursday and declared the Coronavirus 2019-nCoV a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC), the Collective Prevention Services (CPS), a department from the Sint Maarten Ministry of Public Health, Social Development and Labour (Ministry VSA), said on Thursday.

What does this mean for Sint Maarten? Ministry VSA along with its stakeholders and other relevant government ministries, will continue to make preparations for containment, including active surveillance, early detection, isolation and case management, contact tracing and prevention of onward spread of 2019-nCoV infection.

The Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) has stated that the Caribbean region has no confirmed cases or reports of the respiratory illness, and that the region based on current information, and that the immediate health risk from this virus to the general public remains low.

Travelers are requested to take the necessary actions to stay healthy and to also keep their family friends and community healthy by complying with the preventive measures.

Persons are asked to practice general infection control measures, such as frequent hand washing with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer for at least 20 seconds and coughing and sneezing in tissues.

The WHO Emergency Committee convened under the International Health Regulations (IHR) (2005), acknowledged that there are still many unknowns, cases have now been reported in five WHO regions in one month across the globe, and human-to-human transmission has occurred outside Wuhan, China and outside China.

The WHO says: “The Committee believes that it is still possible to interrupt virus spread, provided that countries put in place strong measures to detect disease early, isolate and treat cases, trace contacts, and promote social distancing measures commensurate with the risk.

“It is important to note that as the situation continues to evolve, so will the strategic goals and measures to prevent and reduce spread of the infection. The Committee agreed that the outbreak now meets the criteria for a Public Health Emergency of International Concern and proposed the following advice to be issued as Temporary Recommendations.

“The Committee emphasized that the declaration of a PHEIC should be seen in the spirit of support and appreciation for China, its people, and the actions China has taken on the frontlines of this outbreak, with transparency, and, it is to be hoped, with success. In line with the need for global solidarity, the committee felt that a global coordinated effort is needed to enhance preparedness in other regions of the world that may need additional support for that.”

The public are advised are once again reminded to check the Government’s network for official and factual news and information about the coronavirus.

The Department of Communication (DCOMM) Government public information network includes: SXMGOV Radio 107.9FM, Website: sintmaartengov.org, Facebook Page: Facebook.com/SXMGOV, YouTube Channel: YouTube.com/sxmgov, TV programming via Cable TV Channel 115, and the Government Information Page (GIP) published five-days of the week in the Daily Herald newspaper.

Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV).

A novel coronavirus is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans.  Coronaviruses are zoonotic, meaning they are transmitted between animals and people.

Ministry VSA and other relevant Government departments have been working closely with stakeholders and the ports of entry (Port St. Maarten, Princess Juliana International Airport) after consultation with the ministry are in the process of updating their protocols or are already in an advance stage of implementing preventive measures to ensure a collective response.

All respective stakeholders have been placed on alert and working on adjusting their preparedness and response plans.  Stakeholders are requested to be vigilant and be prepared to detect and stop the spread of the disease.

Methods to deal with a suspected case and to take the necessary preventative measures to curtail the spread not only of the coronavirus but all infectious diseases such as the flu, and many others are being put in place.

If you have respiratory symptoms and you think you have been exposed to a suspected or confirmed case of the 2019-nCoV coronavirus, call your doctor so that the necessary steps can be taken.

Local health care officials have been requested by Ministry VSA to reinforce surveillance measures.  Physicians, labs, and the St. Maarten Medical Center, have been informed regarding the virus and have confirmed that plans are in place and are updated as to what steps need to be taken to deal with a potential imported case of the coronavirus.

The Department of Communication (DCOMM) has also commenced with a public awareness information campaign via its DCOMM Network of radio, social and print media.

Ministry VSA will continue to keep the public informed with respect to developments related to the Coronavirus 2019-nCoV as information becomes available from its regional and international partners, namely CARPHA, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the World Health Organization (WHO). On an international level, the situation is constantly evolving.

For more information, you can call CPS 542-1322, 1122, 1222, 1570 or email surveillance@sintmaartengov.org