COVID-19 update - Seychelles records 10 positive cases in total |01 April 2020
• New quarantine centre to be set up
The total number of confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in Seychelles now stands at 10 after two more positive cases were confirmed by the department of health late Monday evening.
The two individuals, who were in quarantine at the Berjaya Beau Vallon Bay hotel quarantine facility, tested positive for COVID-19 after they both presented with symptoms earlier during the day and were transferred to the Isolation Centre at the Family Hospital at Perseverance for treatment.
In a live press conference held yesterday afternoon, Public Health Commissioner Jude Gedeon noted that both on Friday and Monday, several tests were conducted on persons in quarantine and persons they have come into contact with, all of whom were negative except for the two Seychellois nationals, who arrived in the country within the past week.
The first, a 66-year-old individual landed in Seychelles onboard the British Airways BA 063 flight on March 26, after having travelled from Falklands through the United Kingdom (UK) while the second patient, a 76-year-old arrived onboard an Ethiopian Airlines flight ET 869 from the United Kingdom, through Ethiopia on Sunday March 29, together with their partner, who are being closely monitored by public health officials. Both of their cases are mild and they are not in need of any supportive treatment or invasive treatment such as oxygen.
Both persons were in quarantine from the time they arrived until symptoms started manifesting, although Dr Gedeon noted that 11 of the 21 travellers onboard the BA flight who are considered to be low-risk were in home quarantine on account that existing quarantine facilities had reached full capacity at the time of their arrival. All seven passengers from the Ethiopian Airlines flight however were placed directly in quarantine at Berjaya Beau Vallon Bay Hotel and arrangements are being made for the remaining 11 passengers from the BA flight to complete their 14-day quarantine period in one of the quarantine facilities which have since been freed up as other persons have been discharged.
“The second case started showing symptoms 24 hours following arrival meaning the contacts at the airport is significant and contact-tracing has already started as of Monday night and throughout the day yesterday. When we are conducting contact-tracing, we do not leave any stones unturned and include even persons who clean the planes and immigration officers, health officers and passport control officers, they are all tested,” Dr Gedeon said.
“Ideally, quarantine should be in a dedicated facility but based on the guidelines we have and what other countries are doing, if the quarantine facility does not permit, you can adopt the next best option which is home quarantine. We went a step ahead and have engaged officials to evaluate the appropriateness of their accommodation so we took the additional step to ensure that if ever they develop symptoms, they have not had close contact as such with other individuals,” Dr Gedeon stated in justification of the 11 and numerous others in home quarantine.
Dr Gedeon further noted the establishment of a new quarantine facility at South East Island which is expected to become operational during the course of the week, meaning the authorities can accommodate 250 to 275 persons in quarantine.
Currently, there are 117 persons in quarantine, according to the chief executive of the Health Care Agency Danny Louange, with 83 at Berjaya Beau Vallon Bay Hotel, 17 at the Perseverance Coast Guard facility, 6 on La Digue and 6 on Praslin.
As for the Four Seasons Hotel where the fifth, sixth and seventh cases were detected, the 66 persons in quarantine yesterday completed their 14-day quarantine and the necessary arrangements were being made for them to be discharged, although some will have to undergo further testing because there is a possibility that despite that they are not showing symptoms, they have been exposed to the virus.
“As they complete the quarantine, we re-assess their risks to determine if they would benefit from testing. There are three criteria to be satisfied before a patient can be released, firstly, they must not have had fever in three days, they must not be experiencing respiratory problems and the third criteria, that two tests, carried out 24 hours apart are negative and the third criteria, we have not met yet. Effectively, the six persons in isolation would have been discharged clinically if the tests were not positive as they are barely showing any symptoms,” Dr Gedeon added.
Of the 10 confirmed cases being treated at the Isolation Centre, only one is in critical condition and in need of invasive treatment, although his condition has much improved. While a significant proportion of persons are barely showing any symptoms, public health officials cannot take the risk to release them, Dr Louange explained as testing indicates that they are still carriers of the virus, and therefore the potential to spread the virus to others is still relatively high.
With regards to equipment available for testing and treating the virus which has the world over placed considerable strain on health care services, Head of Public Health Laboratory Leon Biscornet assured that the department of health has worked to ensure proper diagnostic facilities in place.
“We are using tests approved by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) conjointly. We have the PCR tests which test genetic material in individuals who are showing symptoms. The virus itself has genetic matter and the test can detect this. We are also working to maintain our stock and ensure that we can provide the tests for patients who are suspected to be infected, those showing symptoms and who fit the case definition, under the directive of the clinical group,” Mr Biscornet said.
Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests can detect viral particles on a person through samples and swabs. Over the course of the last week, the department received a consignment of PCR tests from the Jack Ma, Ali Baba Foundation and it is currently in reserve.
In addition to PCR test kits, Intelvision on Monday donated 25,000 Rapid test kits to be used on three categories of persons, namely, those in quarantine, infected persons in isolation as well as health care workers as well as other professionals at ports of entry who may have been exposed to infected persons.
It is important to note that testing cannot be conducted at any point and is advised halfway during the incubation period if it is to be accurate.
“The department is working tirelessly to ensure testing and treatment is of the highest quality,” said Dr Gedeon, who concluded by once again urging the public to cooperate with advisories and regulations in place so as to ensure that the situation in Seychelles is kept under control, to avert the catastrophic effects on the health care system and country in general.