By Theresa Goodwin
Local health authorities are not leaving anything to chance as they seek to implement strict control measures to mitigate against the dreaded coronavirus, now being referred to as COVID-19.
Health Minister Molwyn Joseph announced during a recent news conference that attention will now be turned to the yachting sector, which he told reporters, is an area of great concern.
“We want to have a more formal processing of people coming on yachts in particular. We are going to be looking at the different areas where they are being processed in the Jolly Harbour and Nelson’s Dockyard areas.
“Traditionally, we have a strong presence, but in the leisure craft area, it has not been so because the numbers are smaller than those coming off the cruise ships,” Joseph said.
The information from the minister comes at a time when Antigua and Barbuda is getting prepared to host a few major yachting events with an expectant increase in volume of passengers.
Joseph also used the occasion of the news conference to announce that the Ministry of Health will be intensifying its public awareness campaign to educate nationals about the virus.
Aside from Public Service Announcements (PSA’s) via print and online, twice-daily updates, and regular conferences, the ministry intends to take the message to schools.
The ministry is also planning to launch a disinfection campaign.
“We believe that we have to take pre-emptive measures, rather than waiting for things to come on us. We are going into the schools and we are going to be disinfecting all our public schools. The Central Board of Health has assured us they have 16 trained people in this area, and we will be giving them more equipment and supplies so that we can routinely disinfect the schools,” Joseph said.
Health officials were also asked to respond to statements by some international experts that it’s not a matter of ‘if,’ but when COVID-19 will affect the region.
Chief Medical Officer Dr. Rhonda Sealey Thomas explained that “We just don’t know. That’s why we continue to put our guards up and prepare so that we can respond appropriately and efficiently.”
COVID-19 has been confirmed in 59 countries.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 85,000 people globally have contracted the virus, and more than 2,900 have died.