(Antigua observer) – On the same day the novel coronavirus was declared a global emergency by the World Health Organization (WHO), Antigua and Barbuda health officials placed two individuals arriving Antigua on Thursday under quarantine upon their arrival to the V.C. Bird International Airport.
The two individuals are unrelated, but shared similar travel history as they both left Beijing and Gansu provinces in China, respectively, on Wednesday and made transit through France, the United States, Trinidad and ultimately to Antigua.
Health Minister Molwyn Joseph announced that, “Neither of the two exhibited any signs of illness and we anticipate that they are well people and they’ll be no manifestation over the next ensuing days that will conclude after 14 days.”
“As a result of the screening, we were able to ascertain that there was no evidence of any illness whatsoever,” the minister added.
The individuals, officials described, were anticipated into the country well in advance of their arrival and the necessary quarantine protocols were activated to receive them upon arrival.
Medical Officer with responsibility for Epidemiology and Surveillance, Dr Anju Smith, lead the team comprised of medical doctors, immigration and airport officials, that saw to the transport and testing of the suspected individuals.
A series of questions was asked of the travelers followed by a battery of tests conducted by Dr Smith’s medical team.
“Thankfully, these individuals were well,” said Dr Smith.
“But it doesn’t stop there. We do need to follow up with them. So, that means health observations. So we need to know if they are experiencing any signs or symptoms such as fever, cough, headaches, weakness, difficulty in breathing… and that are some of the ways to find out if something is happening with them,” Dr Smith added.
During the 14 day observation period, the reporting will be done on a twice daily basis.
Dr Smith indicated that should the travelers under quarantine begin to present with symptoms likening to the that of one having the virus, that “rigorous actions will be taken” by the department of health.
“We need to know what the risks are for any threat. Once we determine the risks, we act appropriately. In this case, we acted appropriately,” said Medical Officer of Health, Dr Oritta Zachariah.
Once sustained human-to-human transmission has been verified, ongoing assessments will be needed to monitor the severity of the pandemic and the public health risk that it poses to communities. Pandemic risk and severity assessments will inform decisions about response strategies, patient treatment and public health interventions.
In this case, health officials chose quarantine over isolation.
Quarantine is used to separate and restrict the movement of well persons who may have been exposed to a communicable disease to see if they become ill. These people may have been exposed to a disease and do not know it, or they may have the disease but do not show symptoms. Quarantine can also help limit the spread of communicable disease.
“The objective of quarantine is for well-looking persons. Isolation is for the hospital. So, to answer your question, that is why they are not at Mount St John’s,” Dr Smith explained.
The travelers under quarantine will not be under constant surveillance and health officials are depending on the persons under restriction to each personally adhere to the guidelines of the quarantine for the next two weeks.
Dr Smith added that, “spot checks will be made, so it is not entirely up to them.”
“To mobilise resources, to hire someone, to pay someone to sit at somebody’s doorstep to see whether or not they are going to leave their home [especially] person that has not demonstrated any illness might suggest to me that that may not be the way to go,” said Minister Joseph.