An image of passenger arriving at the Robert L Bradshaw International Airport (via www.viator.com)

BASSETERRE, St.Kitts (Friday 13th March 2020)– In wake of the coronavirus (COVID-19), St. Kitts-Nevis, like other countries around the world, have put certain measures at its ports of entry with the exception of using temperature guns at the airport with reason given.

Speaking at a press conference organised by the Ministry of Health earlier this month, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Hazel Laws informed that the ministry has strengthened surveillance at all ports entry and airports including Port Zante, Christophe Harbour and New Guinea.

According to her, all international flights and all flights from regional hubs- Antigua, St.Martin and Puerto Rico- are being monitored.

“Accurate completion of section 17 of the St. Kitts and Nevis Immigration form is now an absolute requirement by immigration for entry into the Federation. All incoming travellers from  China, Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore, South Korea, Japan, Thailand, Vietnam and Italy and Iran must be directed to the health desk to provide information regarding details of travel history, history of exposure to COVID  19, their health status and contact information. The health team at the airport utilizes a screening tool to evaluate these incoming air travellers to determine their risk to COVID 19 and depending on their risk, they’re either allowed normal entry, they may be monitored by the public health team or such persons might be quarantined,” the CMO reported.

As told, all frontline port workers were formally sensitized on COVID-19 and the new measures at the airport at a session conducted in January 2020.

In relation to temperature guns, she explained: “Please note that you will not find thermal scanning taking place at the R L Bradshaw International Airport because based on the latest evidence or science, the use of thermal scanning or temperature guns is not an effective way to detect COVID- 19.”

Dr. Laws added: “Also, if you are an incoming traveller and you’re coming from a territory that’s not deemed a hot spot, you may not interact with our health desk. The international health regulations committee within the federal office of the ministry of health continues to monitor this outbreak daily.”

In sharing some information regarding port surveillance, the CMO said a total of 63 incoming air travellers were screened by the health desk which saw three (3) asymptomatic persons quarantined at home, 6 asymptomatic persons quarantined at tourist facilities and 50 persons being monitored daily by the public health team.

 It was also publicized that two incoming air travellers who consented to testing because they were coming from countries with local transmission of this disease were tested negative for COVID 19.

She disclosed that within the private sector, Next Generation Medical Laboratory is providing local testing capability.

The CMO went on to say that the Ministry of Health recently procured a GeneXpert machine and that the staff is currently being trained to use it for soon local testing capabilities in the public sector particularly at JNF hospital noting “and this is a priority for the Ministry of Health.”

Dr. Laws has explained the difference between isolation and quarantine in regard to the coronavirus.

“Isolation speaks to the separation of I’ll persons from other individuals such that I’ll person does transmit the virus to well persons. Quarantine is the process by which you restrict the movement of individuals are well as asymptomatic but they may have had exposure or they may have been exposed to the virus and so you have to quarantine them and wait and see if they do develop symptoms so if we have an ill person and they have the COVID virus and we are managing them, they will have to go to one of the treatment centres If the virus gets here, all of the hospitals will be treatment sites so persons would be isolated at the hospital, managed and treated. Quarantine, so if you come into St.Kitts right now and with a travel history to Italy …we are going to have to quarantine you because you would have been exposed to the virus so we will have to restrict your movement and observe for the development of symptoms.”

In respect to the cruise ship industry, Tourism Minister Lindsay Grant speaking at a town hall this week commented on how the coronavirus would affect passenger arrival regarding docking permissions saying in part: “We are not going to reach the numbers but you will appreciate and understand that we have the concern [regarding] your safety.”