NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Bahamian students returning from areas affected by the novel coronavirus in China will have to be quarantined for 14 days, according to Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands.
Governments worldwide have begun to airlift their citizens out of Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the outbreak, as the officials record 170 confirmed deaths and more than 7,700 cases of the respiratory illness internationally.
Speaking to reporters on the matter, Sands said: “A number of students have expressed a desire to return home and are indeed preparing to return home.
“Every country that has repatriated its citizens has done so with an abundance of concern but with a significant dose of caution.
“So the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, France, etc., have agreed to place those citizens in quarantine.”
The health minister said it is “likely The Bahamas will do the same thing”.
He continued: “We are now finalizing all of the logistical plans for welcoming its citizens back home.
“But clearly it needs to be done in a way that is safe and in accordance with best practices and public health.”
The city of Wuhan has been locked down with Chinese officials stopping transportation and suspending outbound flights and trains amidst the global health concern.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has advised that there are nine Bahamians undergoing higher level studies in Wuhan.
However, as the schools are on break, only five students are currently in that city.
Additionally, it was advised that the Bahamas ambassador to China and his staff are in contact with all students and Bahamian nationals currently in the country.
The coronavirus is from the same family of viruses as the deadly severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).
Officials have categorized it as “a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans”.
The New York Time has reported that China now has more cases of coronavirus than it had of SARS when it spread across the country between 2002 and 2003 – infecting 5,327 people and killing 349.
Common signs of coronavirus infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties.
However, in more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.
Sands explained yesterday that the ministry will have to monitor the health of any individual returning from China.
“At this point, it is anticipated that anybody from those affected areas will be quarantined for 14 days,” he said.
British Airways has stopped all direct flights to and from mainland China – which included daily flights to Shanghai and Beijing from Heathrow.
The airline said the suspension would be “with immediate effect.
The virus has spread to nearly 20 countries, including the United States, Canada, Australia, Germany, France, the United Arab Emirates, Vietnam, Cambodia, South Korea, Finland, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, Macau and Malaysia, according Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University.
The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) has urged countries in the Americas to be prepared to detect early, isolate and care for patients infected with the virus.