Guyanese, it is my sad duty to announce Guyana confirmed its first imported case of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) in Georgetown on Wednesday, 11th March 2020.
The patient has been identified as a 52-year-old Guyanese female who had travelled from the United States of America, which has reported cases of COVID-19. She arrived in the country on 5th March, presented to the public health system on 10th March and was found to have uncontrolled Diabetes and Hypertension. She subsequently died at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation at 08:00 hours on 11th March.
Health professionals sought to conduct tests for COVID-19 based on the patient’s travel history. A clinical sample was collected and sent at 10:00 hours on 11th March 2020 to the National Reference Laboratory, where laboratory test confirmed the diagnosis at approximately 17:00 hours. The patient’s infection is classified an imported case.
Measures are being taken to prevent the risk of community spread. These measures include:
*dispatch of a health team to the home of the deceased for assessment and initiation of public health prevention measures;
*identification and contact tracing for all possible exposed persons;
*meeting of Ministry officials with members of staff at the hospital; and,
*implementation of necessary interventions.
Screening remains in place for those persons arriving from high-risk countries. Seven countries – Jamaica, Dominican Republic, Brazil, French Guiana, Panama, St. Vincent and the United States of America – have been added to the list of eight (People’s Republic of China, Italy, South Korea, Singapore, Japan, Thailand, Malaysia and Iran) that was previously made public. I advise, further, that:
*public gatherings be discouraged;
*non-essential travel be discouraged;
*competent agencies continue to patrol irregular border crossings; and
*enhanced sensitization of key personnel at all air and seaports is to continue.
The Ministry of Public Health has designated three quarantine facilities; others will be identified. The Ministry, also, has:
*developed the local capacity to test for the COVID-19, thanks to training provided by the Pan-American Health Organization; it is on that capacity that we relied for this test result;
*assessed the readiness of our health facilities to meet the anticipated increase in demand on services;
*continued to fill existing gaps, including with respect of additional supplies and equipment, though, at the present time, the Ministry has enough personal protective equipment in the country for our health facilities. It has, also, adequate stores of respiratory medicine for the next three months;
trained, and continues to train, health-care providers and first-responders; and
*heightened Active Surveillance.
These efforts are supported by a communications campaign to keep the population updated on the virus and its impacts and oversight provided by the Health Emergency Operations Centre. The National Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) will be activated to provide sector wide support.
The Ministry of Public Health is also urging the public to adhere to infection prevention and control measures, particularly to:
*maintain a distance of at least one metre from persons who are coughing or sneezing;
*perform hand hygiene frequently by washing hands thoroughly with soap and water or using a hand sanitizer if hands are not visibly soiled;
*cover mouths and noses with a tissue when coughing or sneezing, and then discarding it; and
*resist the habit to touch the face.
I use this opportunity to appeal to the public to remain calm and to implement all the advisories relating to personal hygiene, social distancing and overall infection prevention and control. The Government of Guyana will continue to keep the public informed as we manage this public health challenge.