Update on novel coronavirus ‘No case detected and no one in quarantine,’ Public Health Commissioner confirms |01 February 2020
So far no case of coronavirus has been detected in Seychelles and there is no one in quarantine with the disease, Public Health Commissioner Dr Jude Gedeon has confirmed.
He was speaking in a press conference yesterday afternoon to give an update on the novel coronavirus.
He was accompanied by the chief executive of the Health Care Agency, Dr Danny Louange.
Coronavirus: Public health emergency of international concern
In its recent meeting held on January 30, the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the outbreak of 2019 novel coronavirus a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC). The latest news from WHO notes that representatives of the Ministry of Health of the People’s Republic of China reported on the current situation and the public health measures being taken. There are now 7711 confirmed cases and 12,167 suspected ones throughout the country. Of the confirmed cases, 1370 are severe and 213 people have died.
The WHO secretariat provided an overview of the situation in other countries. There are now 83 cases in 18 countries. Of these, only 7 had no history of travel in China. There has been human-to-human transmission in 3 countries outside China. One of these cases is severe and there have been no deaths.
“Under international health regulations, that means that countries all around the world have to step up all the measures of preparedness and response. Secondly it also takes into account issues regarding resource mobilisation that are made available to countries to mark the response. WHO is very specific about whatever measures are taken does not cause any disruption to trade and travel. However the countries have sovereign rights to take any measures if necessary and if they feel that the measures suggested are not adequate. For Seychelles, we have issued new advisories as regards to movements in order to permit Seychelles and the services in Seychelles to upgrade its surveillance and better prepare in case we get a case here,” noted Dr Gedeon.
New measures taking effect as from February 3
“As of January 30, no one is allowed to visit China from Seychelles and the hotels have been notified to allow the cancellations in their respective hotels without any levy or penalty. All expatriates coming from China (the last 14 days) will not be allowed to enter Seychelles until the epidemic is over. We have also asked the airline companies who operate in Seychelles to not embark any passengers or crew who have been in China for the last fourteen days. These measures take effect as from February 3 in order to allow the airlines to rearrange their schedules,” added Dr Gedeon.
He explained that these travel advisories are being issued after working with the Foreign Affairs, the department of tourism and other agencies and technicians.
At the Health Ministry, noted Dr Gedeon, “we do not panic. Panicking and fear are not part of our vocabulary. We are here to manage the situation as best as science informs”.
The measures the Ministry of Health is taking fall under different categories. “We have surveillance at sea port and airport, surveillance at the health facilities and in the laboratories. There is logistics in terms of supply of equipment; there is patient management, waste management, among others.
“It is not the first time Seychelles prepares for outbreaks and in the near past the Ministry of Health in Seychelles had to be prepared for Sars, H1N1, Ebola (two different outbreaks), plague, among others. Each outbreak is different and we need to prepare for them.
“Even at the ports area, all boats/cruises are being checked before they even enter Seychelles. If there is any suspect, the ship is kept in quarantine at sea. With cruise ships, it is easier as they already have a medical team onboard,” noted Dr Gedeon.
“We do work with different stakeholders and they are engaged at different specific times. We have a multi-sectoral integrated disease surveillance response committee. When there is an outbreak it is not just the health’s concern but the support of other organisations and the support of the public in listening to the message and avoiding panic.
“We do have teams that are doing check-ups with masks and ambulance, but there is no need to be worried.
“There is no country that can claim to be 100% ready and prepared but we are trying our best.”
Health centres and hospitals equipped for any eventuality
Dr Louange noted that all health centres and hospitals around Seychelles have been implementing specific measures. “As soon as a patient registers, they have to give us some details and we urge the public to reduce the use of the health centres and hospitals if they can avoid it. We are currently training staff in order to prepare them for any eventual outbreak. The staff have been refreshed and know the latest procedures.
“We have a rapid response team available 24 hours and they can move anywhere on the island. We also put in place a support service for our staff to be strong physically and psychology.
We are also asking members of the public to reduce their visits to the hospitals and we will strictly maintain the visiting hours and only two visitors per patient. We are asking the public to reduce their visits to the health centres in order to allow us to use this service better.
No children under 10 years will be allowed for visits in order to protect the patients and the public.”
Reduction in surgeries
Dr Louange also announced that as from Monday February 3, there will be a reduction in regular surgeries. “We will perform only emergency surgeries and all cases related to cancer. “We ask the public for their understanding and we ask them to support us in this decision. The concerned ones will receive a call and the surgeries will be rescheduled once the situation is cleared. We will not compromise our services and will attend to all emergency surgeries and others will be assessed and managed by the doctors.”
When the Coronavirus was discovered, there was no test yet. “The laboratories in the world develop this test which has been recently discovered. The test can be done in a specific laboratory in South Africa. In Seychelles we do have general tests that can indicate if the patient suffers from coronavirus. But we are expecting the tests to come to Seychelles soon. We will be one of the few countries in Africa that will be able to conduct a test but still have to confirm the result in South Africa. Usually the result is back within two days after delivery at the laboratory. If any person is suspected to have the coronavirus, he/she will be admitted at the Anse Royale hospital,” noted Dr Gedeon.
The Ministry of Health is also dealing with a measles outbreak and the situation is under control. Many of its staff are currently engaged in providing vaccines in districts. Isolation rooms have also been prepared for measles patients at the Seychelles Hospital. A vaccination programme is ongoing with the population and as soon as the stock of vaccination arrives in the country, the ministry will provide them in the districts. It is asking the public to cooperate with them and understand the priorities.
The advice is not to go in public places if you are having a cough and fever. “We are gathering lots of information about this disease and most of the mild cases are not being reported at the hospitals. There is no indication that such risk is being circulated in Seychelles. Our objective is to detect a case as soon as possible and to control transmission. We ask the population to use all the basic hygienic advice given to the public in order to protect oneself. The people should be also careful not to propagate rumours and we will give an update everyday about the coronavirus.”