Minister of Health and Wellness, Lt. Col. Jeffrey Bostic. (FP)

The Ministry of Health and Wellness has started to put measures in place to respond to any threat to public health which may be caused by the new type of coronavirus, first reported last month in China.

The respiratory illness, which originated in Wuhan City, has since been identified in Thailand, Japan, South Korea, the United States and Australia.

Minister of Health and Wellness, Lt. Col. Jeffrey Bostic, told a press briefing today that the virus posed no direct threat to Barbados at the moment, but the Ministry remained alert because of the potential threat.

The technical team within the Ministry met today to discuss their readiness to respond, and further meetings will take place with the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, as well as the Ministry of Tourism and International Transport and the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Blue Economy, which have responsibility for the ports of entry.

The Cabinet of Barbados will also be briefed on the matter tomorrow, Minister Bostic disclosed.

He assured that Barbados already had a number of protocols in place which had been developed out of its experience with other potential public health threats, such as Ebola and SARS, and added that the Ministry would do all in its power to remain on top of the current situation.

Acting Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Kenneth George, revealed that there were more than 400 confirmed cases so far, and 17 deaths reported.

He noted that while most people with “good immune systems” would be able to fight off the symptoms of fever, cough, sore throat and body aches, those particularly at risk would include the elderly, asthmatics and persons with chronic illnesses, such as diabetes and hypertension.

He urged persons travelling from Barbados to the affected regions to protect themselves by practising frequent hand washing and avoiding close contact with persons suffering from acute respiratory infections.  Those who have recently travelled and returned home with symptoms are advised to seek immediate medical attention.

Meanwhile, Dr. George stated that arriving passengers from these regions will be screened by officers at the ports of entry.  Those without symptoms will be required to leave their contact information so that they can be followed up within the next 14 days, while those with symptoms will be directed to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital for further management.

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