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Guyana records first “imported case” of Coronavirus; President Granger discourages “public gatherings”

President David Granger Wednesday night announced that a 52-year-old Guyanese woman, who returned from the United States (US) on March 5, died on Wednesday – six days later – is Guyana’s first “imported case of the Coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).

Mr Granger said the woman, who went to a government-owned health care and treatment institution, had uncontrolled diabetes and hypertension. She subsequently died at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation at 08:00 hours on 11th March.

But based on the woman’s travel history, he said a clinical sample was collected and sent at 10:00 hours on 11th March 2020 to the National Reference Laboratory, where a test confirmed the diagnosis at approximately 17:00 hours.

The President has since advised that public gatherings be discouraged and non-essential travel be discouraged; and competent agencies continue to patrol irregular border crossings; and sensitization of key personnel at all air and seaports continue. He said patrols of irregular border crossings and sensitization of key personnel at all air and seaports will be beefed up.

Mr Granger said a health team will be dispatched to the home of the deceased for assessment and initiation of public health prevention measures, identification and contact tracing for all possible exposed persons and meeting of Ministry officials with members of staff at the hospital, and implementation of necessary interventions.

“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,” he said.

He said 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.

The Ministry of Public Health has designated three quarantine facilities; others will be identified.

President Granger added that the Ministry of Public Health has:

  •  developed the local capacity to test for the COVID-19, thanks to training provided by the Pan-American Health Organization;
  • assessed the readiness of 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.