By Latrishka Thomas
Amid the global threat of the novel coronavirus, government has earmarked the Margetson Ward on the old Holberton Hospital compound to be re-purposed into a quarantine or isolation facility.
“Should we have an arrival of someone here, perhaps maybe one or two persons having contracted the infectious coronavirus, those protocols are being put in place [to] convert the Margetson Ward into an isolation unit.
“This is something that is required as part of our health infrastructure in the first place,” Minister of Information Melford Nicholas stated during Thursday’s post-Cabinet press briefing.
Nicholas revealed the plans after Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr Rhonda Sealy-Thomas addressed the Cabinet on Wednesday, primarily in relation to the coronavirus.
There she disclosed the arrangements that have been put in place to quarantine people arriving from China, where the coronavirus originated.
Nicholas also said that retrofitting the facility will be a matter of urgency.
“I would imagine that we are talking of weeks and not months. I think the first thing would have to more than likely start from the inside out to ensure that the facilities can in fact accommodate persons. This virus, if it does come to our shores, it’s gonna come like a thief in the night.
“It’s not going to be something that we know long in advance, so I think the resources that are going to be made available to the Ministry of Health are immediate and we would expect the conversion of the facility to commence almost at once,” the Cabinet spokesperson added.
Globally, the virus has now infected almost 30,000 people. There are still no cases in Antigua and Barbuda.
In Antigua, two females and three males have been placed under quarantine for 14 days, as recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO).
These include four local students who returned to the shores of the twin island state and were quarantined despite not having been near the epicentre of the disease.
Furthermore, the Cabinet said, it is “satisfied that the health professionals in Antigua and Barbuda have been acting intelligently and skillfully to prepare the nation for every eventuality.”
And with that, it has authorised the use of special funding to complete the multi-faceted preparations.