Dr. Judy Nisbett, Medical Officer of Health in the Ministry of Health on Nevis, meeting with personnel from the Nevis Air and Sea Ports Authority at the Vance W. Amory International Airport’s conference room Monday to discuss the emerging 2019 coronavirus in China and other parts of the world.

Dr. Judy Nisbett, Medical Officer of Health in the Ministry of Health on Nevis, said although St. Kitts and Nevis is currently considered at low health risk regarding the outbreak of 2019 coronavirus, the ministry is taking a proactive approach to sensitise frontline persons at the island’s ports of entry during a with a cross section of persons from the Nevis Air and Sea Ports Authority (NASPA) at the Vance W. Amory International Airport’s conference room Monday.

“This morning we are here to have a discussion with Customs, Immigration and other airport officials about this outbreak. The health risk to the Federation is considered to be low at this time. However, we have to continue with our surveillance,” she said.“We have to have heightened surveillance, and persons who would assist us with the surveillance would be the frontline workers at the airport and at the sea ports, and therefore we are here to sensitise the staff and to ask them to put certain measures in place.”

Dr. Nisbett told those at the meeting the disease was respiratory in nature and is spread mainly by droplets, thus they should take the necessary precautions.

“We ask persons to take the same precautions that we have been asking persons to take as it pertains to the flu virus, so wash hands often. Cover your cough and your sneeze with a tissue. Dispose of that tissue in the trash and then wash your hands,” she said.“This virus would have been spread from an animal to humans and that is not rear because we have seen that occur, for example in the SARS [Severe acute respiratory syndrome] virus outbreak that we had, and the MERS-CoV [Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus] outbreak that was an epidemic in recent times, so we are asking persons to cook meat and to cook eggs thoroughly before eating. We are asking persons to be conscious of their surroundings, to be vigilant and to take all precautions seriously.”

The novel coronavirus originated from Wuhan China in 2019 and has spread to other countries. In most cases, those infected in other countries would have travelled to Wuhan, considered the epicentre of the outbreak.

She stressed the need for officers receiving passengers to pay special attention to ports of origin and those they transit through before disembarking in Nevis.

Mr. Darren Sutton, Manager of the Vance W. Amory International Airport, said the sensitisation exercise was helpful.

“As an airport facility we are responsible for the interaction of passengers leaving and departing this facility, and they would be coming from different countries. Persons who would be affected they will be coming in contact with our frontline agencies such as Immigration, Customs, Security, therefore it is important for us to have the information that we can be protected, and be sensitised as to how to mitigate and how to control and to avoid the spread of this disease. This workshop will be very helpful for our facility,” he said.

Mr. Brian Dyer, Director of the Nevis Disaster Management Department, was also present.