The Ministry of Health is conducting contact tracing for passengers on two LIAT flights, including the one on which the nation’s sole confirmed case of the coronavirus — COVID-19 travelled.
On Saturday, a passenger on a LIAT flight who “had a recent history of contact with a COVID-19 positive case” arrived in St. Vincent and the Grenadines aboard LIAT flight LI771 en route to Trinidad and Tobago.
“As per international health regulations requirements, the passenger has been quarantined and will remain in quarantine for the next seven days,” the ministry said in a press statement late Monday.
The ministry said that the passenger has not shown any signs or symptoms of COVID-19 but a clinical sample has been taken for analysis.
“Contact tracing for all contacts of this passenger has commenced. Passengers arriving in St. Vincent and the Grenadines on LI771 on March 14th, 2020, who have not yet been contacted by the Ministry of Health, Wellness and the Environment, are asked to call the COVID-19 Hotline at telephone number 534-4325.
“The Ministry of Health, Wellness and the Environment urges the cooperation of the public in this matter.”
While the COVID-19 hotline was not operational on Saturday, one day after Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves said it was set up, a call by iWitness News to the number at 5:02 a.m. on Sunday was answered on the second ring.
Meanwhile, the ministry is also conducting contact tracing in relation to its sole case of COVID-19, which was confirmed last Wednesday, March 11.
The patient was a Vincentian female who had returned home from the United Kingdom on March 7.
The United Kingdom is currently reporting community transmission of COVID-19. The patient, who is between age 30 and 35, contacted the relevant healthcare services on March 10 and has been in isolation since then.
A clinical sample was collected and sent to the Caribbean Public Health Agency Laboratory for analysis. Laboratory tests confirmed the diagnosis at approximately 5:28 p.m. on March 10.
The patient, family members and other primary contacts have been informed of the diagnosis and possible exposure and steps are being taken to prevent the risk of local transmission, the ministry said.
“These measures include the identification and contact tracing for all possible exposed persons. Relevant passengers arriving on LI771 from Barbados were traced and followed up according to World Health Organization guidelines. To date, all contacts of the index case have shown no evidence of COVID-19,” the ministry said.
At a press conference on Wednesday, where SVG’s first case of COVID-19 was announced, Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Simone Keizer-Beache was asked if contract tracing will include persons on the flight on which the woman travelled.
Keizer-Beache, a physician, said research has shown that if someone who is positive for a corona-like virus is not symptomatic — meaning they’re not coughing, have no fever, and have no obvious display of illness — that the benefits of doing contact tracing for the other persons on that flight are “minimal — meaning that the risk to the other passengers is minimal.
“However, we will still make every effort to alert the persons sitting three rows in front, three rows behind that person so that they are aware,” Keizer-Beache said.
She added: “As you know, when you sit in the plane, you’re given a number these days; sometimes we move around, but this is information that is readily available.”
None of the officials at the press conference gave any information about the flight on which the woman had travelled.
Meanwhile, on Saturday, Gonsalves proposed reducing SVG’s US$40 departure tax for six months and encouraged hotels to slash rates in an effort to encourage intra-regional travel so as to dampen the economic impact of COVID-19.