The country’s coronavirus-related fatalities doubled within the space of several hours yesterday, with the deaths of a 78-year-old woman and a 59-year-old man at the Georgetown Public Hospital and Diamond Diagnostic Centre, respectively.
Dead are Osa Collins of New Amsterdam, Berbice, and a male individual, who up to press time, this publication had not learnt of his identity.
According to reports out of the Public Health Ministry, Collins’ case has been regarded an imported one, since she had travelled to the United States. The previous two COVID-19 deaths were those of Ratna Baboolall [another imported case] and Jermaine Ifill [local transmission]. Confirming earlier yesterday that the total number of cases had moved from 12 to 19, within 24 hours, was Minister of Public Health, Volda Lawrence, during a Facebook live update.
The Minister also disclosed that another suspected case continued to be inconclusive.
This publication understands that the case has been ruled inconclusive because laboratory personnel have been unable to extract novel coronavirus traits from the samples taken from the subject.
And while the Minister’s update included confirmation of Ms. Collins’ death, it was late last evening that the fourth victim succumbed to complications from the disease.
Yesterday, the Minister also sought to put to rest concerns that the recent death of a patient at the West Demerara Regional Hospital was related to COVID-19.
“This patient did not, I repeat did not, contract the Coronavirus disease, nor did he die from COVID-19, as is being alleged. His death was as a result of his underlying conditions,” said the Minister.
She moreover appealed for “those persons stigmatizing the family to desist from this practice and not indulge in fake news. Rather, let us empathize with the family for the loss of their loved one.”
And for those who still have “lingering” concerns as to who should be tested for the virus, the Minister presented multiple scenarios of persons fitting the testing criteria.
“Scenario1: If you have travelled and during the 14 days you begin to have a cough, fever or shortness of breath; Scenario 2: if you have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 and during 14 days since that meeting you begin to have – a cough, fever or shortness of breath; Scenario 3: if you visited a facility where COVID-19 positive cases have been identified and during the 14 days after that visit you begin to have a cough, fever or shortness of breath or Scenario 4: in order to protect our patients, all hospitals will have a mandatory test done on patients to be admitted with all the symptoms – cough, fever, shortness of breath that cannot be explained from a clinical perspective,” the Minister explained.
As such, she made it pellucid that persons presenting with a fever and other symptoms such as shortness of breath or cough will not automatically be categorized as COVID-19-positive. The Ministry, according to her, follows testing guidelines provided by the World Health Organization [WHO].
Based on the Ministry’s COVID-19 surveillance data, thus far, the geographical reach of the virus is limited to Region Three [one positive], Region Four [17 positives and one inconclusive] and Region Six [one positive].
According to Minister Lawrence, the total number of persons who have been tested has moved from 52 to 70 with 19 positives, 50 negatives, and the one inconclusive.
Added to this, she revealed that 36 persons are in institutional quarantine, 11 in isolation, and one remains hospitalized in the COVID-19 ICU Unit. The Minister said too that the Ministry has endorsed 119 home quarantines, even as Region Six expands its quarantine facility to cater for 30 additional persons.
As it pertains to containing and mitigating the further spread of the virus, the Ministry has moved to strengthen community and hospital surveillance as well as the rapid response surveillance team, Minister Lawrence said.
In this quest, the Minister provided an update on an Action Plan for the Barima-Waini Region, pointing out that “the Mabaruma Regional Hospital has developed an External Triage area and a coloured hand band system for the differentiation of cases.”
Added to this, she said that “a separate isolation facility has also been identified with capacity for eight to 10 persons and quarantine capacity for two persons, which will expand as we go along.”
Complementing the efforts already implemented in that Region is the introduction of hand washing stations, complete with running water and hand soap, at the entrance to the hospital, the Minister shared. According to her, too, “the cleaning staff has already started two hourly sanitisations of floors and surfaces.”
The novel coronavirus first surfaced in Wuhan, China but has since found its way into more than 200 countries infecting more than 900,000 people with over 46,000 fatalities.
Given the unprecedented contagious characteristics of the virus, local health officials have been appealing for persons who believe they have been exposed to call hotlines set up by the Public Health Ministry to report their conditions or related concerns.
[Some of the hotline numbers are: 227-4986, 231-7490, 231-1166, 226-7480, 624-9355, 624-6674, 624-3067]
According to Minister Lawrence, as of Tuesday, calls to the COVID-19 hotlines moved from 1,065 to 1,142.
Meanwhile, in lauding the efforts of frontline health workers, the Minister said, “let me first commend the courageous and indefatigable efforts of all of you. The Ministry of Public Health is appreciative of your daily sacrifice to keep us all safe.”
Moreover, the Minister hastened to lash out at those who, she said, have been opting to stigmatise the valiant efforts demonstrated by these frontline health workers.
“I now wish to make an appeal to all those who are bent on stigmatizing our health workers (refusal of entry to public transportation, among others), to immediately put an end to this. You are being irresponsible and weakening our line of response by your negativity. In this moment of crisis, we need to work in concert and fight this war together. We need to give our overwhelming support to our health workforce,” the Minister passionately urged.
The Minister also made an earnest appeal for health workers to put forward any recommendations that can help to improve the national COVID-19 response.
“I encourage you, if you have recommendations concerning any aspects we may have overlooked, to pen those to the RHO in your region. For staff at GPHC, you can submit to Brigadier Ret’d, George Lewis [GPHC CEO], and for those of you in the private institutions, you can submit your recommendations to the CEOs of your institution,” she added.
As the Minister reminded of the importance of persons giving accurate information to the COVID-19 surveillance team, she continued to stress the importance of social distancing and the application of proper and regular hygienic measures in the fight against COVID-19.
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