ST JOHN’S, Antigua, Friday March 13, 2020 – The novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) continues its spread across the Caribbean, with Antigua and Barbuda, Trinidad and Tobago, and the Cayman Islands reporting their first cases, while additional cases have been confirmed in Jamaica and Martinique.
The latest country to confirm the presence of the virus was Antigua and Barbuda. Prime Minister Gaston Browne announced today that a woman who arrived in the twin-island nation on March 10 from the United Kingdom had tested positive.
The infected woman was staying with family when she began to present with symptoms. She has been isolated at home under the supervision of health officials.
The Ministry of Health in Trinidad announced yesterday that one of the 52 samples sent to the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) lab for testing had returned positive – a 52-year-old resident who Monday night returned to the twin-island republic from Switzerland which, up to yesterday, had 645 COVID-19 cases and had recorded four deaths.
The man had isolated himself after arriving, even before he began experiencing symptoms, Health Minister Dr Terrence Deyalsingh later disclosed at a press conference.
By Wednesday, he began experiencing symptoms and samples were taken from him by health authorities. Deyalsingh said he was informed at 2:45 p.m. yesterday that the test returned positive.
“It is a mild case,” he said. “The family has been in isolation since we were alerted, since Wednesday. Contact tracing began on Wednesday under the protocols that we use of tuberculosis,” the Health Minister said.
Earlier in the day, the Tourism Ministry announced in a statement that Government had suspended the arrival of cruise ships for the remainder of the 2019-2020 cruise season which ends on April 24.
It said that given the rapid infection of COVID-19 globally, the potential economic loss from the epidemic entering Trinidad and Tobago would outweigh the potential loss associated with the decision to suspend the arrival of cruise ships for the rest of the 2019-2020 cruise season.
“Public health and safety of our citizens are of utmost importance and there is urgent need to place safeguarding measures in place to protect our citizens from the potential devastating effects of a COVID-19 epidemic,” Tourism Minister Randall Mitchell said.
Over in the Cayman Islands, the Public Health Department confirmed the British overseas territory’s first COVID-19 case.
“The patient is a visitor who was transferred from a cruise ship for a critical cardiac issue,” said Medical Health Officer Dr Samuel Williams-Rodriguez.
“The patient was doing well but subsequently developed breathing difficulties, was isolated and a test taken has confirmed is suffering with the novel Coronavirus.”
Clinical Director of Health City Cayman Islands Dr Binoy Chattuparambil said the patient has been isolated and is receiving medical support.
Meantime, Jamaica has confirmed six new cases – including a relative of the first woman who tested positive in the island – bringing the total number to eight.
The 58-year-old father of that first patient was discovered ill at home on Wednesday and was found to have the virus. A 34-year-old female who is a “close contact” of that woman also tested positive, the Ministry of Health said.
The other four were: two men – aged 63 and 67 – who arrived in the island on March 7 from Trinidad, having travelled from Malaysia by way of Dubai and London; a 36-year-old man who travelled from Manchester, England and was taken to hospital from his hotel via ambulance on March 11; and a 31-year-old Jamaican overseas ship worker who came in from the Canary Islands via Portugal and Miami on February 25 and presented to hospital with symptoms on March 10.
In Martinique, the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 has increased to four. The Regional Health Agency said the infected individuals are in isolation at the CHU Martinique Hospital, La Meynard, in a special and sheltered quarantine unit.
Other Caribbean countries which have confirmed cases of the virus are: St Vincent and the Grenadines, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Saint Martin, Saint Barthelemy, and Guyana which also recorded the region’s first COVID-19 death. Figures provided by the World Health Organization showed that as of yesterday, there were 125,048 confirmed cases across the globe – 80,981 in China where the virus originated – and a total of 4,613 deaths.