Suriname Closes Borders, St Lucia Cancels Jazz Festival After Confirming Coronavirus; Curacao, Aruba Report First Cases

PARAMARIBO, Suriname, Saturday March 14, 2020 – The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) nations of St Lucia and Suriname and the Dutch Caribbean islands of Aruba and Curacao have been added to the list of countries that have confirmed cases of the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19).

And Suriname’s borders and airports were closed to all traffic from midnight last night as a result of the virus confirmation there.

Vice President Michael Ashwin Adhin said the infected individual had travelled from the Netherlands last Wednesday. The woman reported having symptoms yesterday morning and tested positive by afternoon, and has been transferred to an isolation facility at Wanica Hospital.

After Curacao recorded its first case yesterday, all flights from Europe were banned until further notice. It was a 68-year-old tourist who arrived in the island last Thursday.

People who have been in China (including Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan), Singapore, Iran, South Korea, as well as the provinces Lombardy, Veneto, Emiglia, Romagna, Peimonte, Aosta-vallei,Trentino-South Tirol, Friuli-Julisch-Venice, and Liguria in Northern Italy in the past 14 days or had been in contact with someone who has proven COVID-19, will not be allowed to board flights destined for Curacao.

Additionally, passengers and airline crew who have travelled recently to other areas with sustained transmission of COVID-19 will be evaluated and screened if they are exhibiting symptoms. 

Aruba has also confirmed two cases, and all flights from Europe have been banned until at least March 31.

St Lucia’s first confirmed case is a 63-year-old woman with a travel history from the United Kingdom where, up to yesterday, there were 594 cases of COVID-19 and eight deaths.

She had arrived in the island last Saturday with her husband, and went to hospital on Wednesday, March 11.

“The patient was been placed in isolation at a medical facility as per the established protocol for management of suspect cases of COVID-19. A clinical sample was taken from the patient on the same day, March 11, 2020 and sent to the Caribbean Public Health Agency CARPHA for testing. The result which was received on Friday, March 13, 2020 confirmed that this is a case of COVID-19,” a statement from the Ministry of Health said.

Health Minister Mary Isaac has urged residents not to panic.

“It is understandable that this announcement will arouse the concern of everyone but please be assured that there is no need for panic. My team continues to work on all elements of our response to this first case and the possibility of further cases being diagnosed over time,” she said.

“In the meantime, we continue to focus on our capacity respond to COVID-19 across all sectors nationally.” It was also announced yesterday that the St Lucia Jazz Festival, which was scheduled for May 7-9, has been cancelled in the interest of health and safety.

Other Caribbean countries that have reported COVID-19 cases are Antigua and Barbuda, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Guyana, Guadeloupe, Martinique, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, Saint Martin, and Saint Barthelemy.

According to World Health Organization (WHO) figures, up to yesterday the number of global cases had reached 132,758 – 80,991 of them in China where the virus originated – and there were 4,955 deaths. Of those deaths, 3,180 were in China.

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