My fellow Montserratians, residents and visitors.
I address you today as your Minister of Health, to inform you of the latest local developments related to COVID-19. Unfortunately, we received confirmation today (Tuesday March 17) from the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) that Montserrat now has its first confirmed case of the new coronavirus.
The sample was sent from the suspected case identified on Friday March 13th. The patient is someone who is visiting from the UK, and who travelled on the March 10, 2020 British Airways flight (BA 2157) from London to Antigua, which was transporting a passenger whom the Antiguan authorities identified as being positive for COVID-19.
On learning on the 13th from the Antiguan authorities that a passenger on that flight had fallen ill with COVID-19, my Ministry activated its outbreak investigation protocol to locate, assess and quarantine all passengers who travelled to Montserrat, through Antigua on the same British Airways flight.
The patient has been in isolation since March 13th and will remain in isolation, while being treated and monitored until the disease is no longer detected.
A total of three samples were sent to CARPHA for testing. One tested positive for COVID-19 and two came back negative.
I know that everyone is concerned, however I am appealing to all not to panic. Remain calm and follow the instructions from the Ministry of Health and the Government of Montserrat as a whole.
In this ever-connected world we cannot hide from such global pandemics; with countries around us succumbing to the relenting and growing reach of the virus.
Given the rapid spread of COVID-19, we knew it was only a matter of time before it showed up on our shores. That is why we have been activating our preparedness plans and measures for weeks now.
To date we have:
• Monitored patients and close contacts in the homes of those presently quarantined;
• Ongoing contact tracing to identify all possible exposed persons;
• Restricted visits to the hospital and senior citizens’ homes;
• Limited or flexible public sector working;
• Closed schools and banned public gatherings
Our preparedness work is comprehensive and it involves actions to minimise risk of exposure amongst the local population. On the other front, we are taking actions to make sure the health system is enhanced and upgraded so we can treat patients in the event that we see more cases of coronavirus in Montserrat.
In addition to the preparations already done ahead of time, we are further securing additional supplies and equipment. I can assure you we have enough clinical and personal protective equipment on island. Our staff have been trained and encouraged to use PPE to protect themselves.
The government has taken steps to order extra supplies, such as more beds, extra ventilators and testing equipment and supplies, to ensure that the hospital has the resources it needs.
Furthermore, I would like to remind the public that you must :
• Refrain from public gatherings;
• Maintain social distancing;
• Wash your hand regularly with Soap and water or hand sanitizer;
• Non-essential travel is also discouraged.
Everyone is encouraged to take personal responsibility to minimize the risk of exposure and spread in Montserrat by taking these simple precautions.
Remember, those who are most at risk are the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions, such as hypertension, heart disease and diabetes. Let us do everything in our power to protect our people.
If you however, develop symptoms such as:
fever, cough and difficulty breathing or other cold and flu symptoms; please seek medical care immediately by contacting NOT visiting the Glendon Hospital Casualty Department via telephone at 491-2802/ 2836/ 2552.
The Government will continue to update the public as more information becomes available regarding this on-going COVID-19 situation.