First COVID-19 sample from A&B tests negative

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By Orville Williams

The Ministry of Health has disclosed that the results of the first sample in a suspected case of the coronavirus (COVID-19) from Antigua and Barbuda, have returned negative.

Minister of Health, Wellness and the Environment Molwyn Joseph made the disclosure yesterday afternoon, during a press conference at the Ministry of Health headquarters, after giving more details about the suspected case.

“A patient, a 72-year-old lady from New Jersey, travelled to Antigua and Barbuda on February the 29th this year. She exhibited symptoms of shortness of breath and respiratory infection, and sought medical attention on the 6th of March. She remained under observation in a private facility [and] her health profile triggered a protocol at the Ministry of Health, for the management of the entire process,” Joseph told the media.

He explained the samples were collected under the procedures established by the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) and were managed by personnel from the Mount St John’s Medical Centre (MSJMC) – including the proper packaging and transportation from the private facility to the MSJMC.

The Health Minister clarified the method of transportation used for the samples, in order to allay any fears of potential contamination.

“I want to emphasise that there is a designated piece of equipment that is used under these circumstances, which is not used for routine emergencies. So, when you see the ambulances moving around in Antigua and Barbuda, those ambulances are not involved in the management of COVID-19; there is a special, designated ambulance that is used for that purpose,” he explained.

After the samples were collected and prepared for transportation, the transit from Antigua and Barbuda to Trinidad and Tobago – according to the established protocol – was facilitated by the Regional Security System (RSS), through assistance from the Commissioner of Police.

As Joseph further explained, “the plane arrived in Antigua and Barbuda, the samples were collected and successfully delivered to Trinidad last evening [March 9]. CARPHA then proceeded to analyse the samples and this morning, or mid-morning or so today [March 10], we received the results of the test. I’m pleased to report that the test came back negative and did not indicate that this patient was a carrier of COVID-19.”

While expressing his pleasure with the negative test results, the Health Minister also spoke on the importance of the incident and reiterated the ministry’s focus on transparency in handling the threat of COVID-19.

“I should also indicate that this was an important test of the system that we have worked so hard to establish here in Antigua and Barbuda, in responding to what was a suspected case of Covid-19. This process involved the head of government – the Prime Minister – and when this development began, [he] was alerted and was aware of the activities of the Ministry of Health from the very beginning,” he said.

Joseph also gave an update on the suspected patient, stating that, “the person [has not been] released, but is under private care – [in] a private facility – and the reports we get is that the person is improving gradually.” Meanwhile, Jamaica confirmed its first imported case of the Covid-19 coronavirus, yesterday, with the patient being a female citizen who had recently travelled from the United Kingdom.

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