Country is two cases away from being Covid-free

An image from an electron microscope shows SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Scientists say this version of the coronavirus has mutated and become more contagious. (Associated Press)
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By Elesha George

[email protected]

Barring any new developments, Antigua and Barbuda is well on its way to registering zero active cases of Covid-19.

Minister of Health Molwyn Joseph confirmed in Parliament on Thursday that there are only two patients who have not yet passed the criteria to be released from hospital care.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) requires patients to register two consecutive negative Covid-19 tests before they can be considered to be free of the virus.

According to Joseph, there are only two individuals being treated, and only one of them still has the virus. He said the patient has been retested and the result of that specimen is likely to be received today after being dispatched to Trinidad.

The minister further explained that “there are 16 people in Antigua and Barbuda who have had the two consecutive negative tests, 15 of these two consecutive negative DNA PCR tests are clinically well …  one of the 16 that’s negative is still recovering and is still at the Mount St John’s hospital being cared for. Notwithstanding the fact he [no] longer have the virus, he has other underlying morbidities such as kidney problems and so we continue to treat him”.

Health officials have tested 147 people (several people have been retested), 25 of whom tested positive for the virus since March 11 after the first local case was identified. To date, there have been only three Covid-related deaths on island.

Confirmed cases were recorded in five of the seven parishes in Antigua and Barbuda. The largest cluster was recorded in St John’s (eight) followed by St Paul’s (five); St George’s (six); St Mary’s (three); and St Peter’s (three).

Even with news of containment of the virus, residents have been advised not to become complacent, as the relaxing of restrictions and the reopening of borders from June 1 will present yet another challenge.

While commending frontline workers for containing the virus, the health minister warned of further spread.

“As we undertake the easing of curfew, we will have more mingling of individuals, as well allowing stranded residents who are abroad to return home, we may see more cases,” he said, adding that “many of our citizens are stranded all over the world, in particular the United States and to be specific, the epicentre of Covid – the state of New York — where most of our citizens reside now. When we open our borders, Mr Speaker, many of them will be returning.”

These individuals will be subjected to a mandatory 14-day quarantine at the Hawksbill hotel, which the minister pointed out currently houses only two people.

Additional measures to reduce any instances of spread will be further aided by the use of a thermographic camera at VC Bird International Airport. Once commissioned and installed, the equipment will alert airport workers to travellers who record abnormal temperature readings.

All future Covid cases will also be managed at Holberton Hospital’s Infectious Disease Centre (IDC), giving way for the Mount St John’s Medical Centre to treat other serious ailments.

Prime Minister Gaston Browne, in Parliament, also disclosed the start of domestic testing to be followed by independent testing as early as next week.

“What would have happened during the last week or two, our technicians would have garnered the necessary experience and their work would have been validated by CARPHA so that there would be confidence in the test results,” he explained. Three teams whose responsibility is to trace individuals who have been exposed to Covid-19 have also been deployed to reduce any major threat from a second wave.

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