A mixed Public Health Department and A.M. Edwards Medical Centre team during the drive-in clinic in The Bottom on Tuesday, April 21. Persons with an appointment come to this clinic for a coronavirus test while remaining in their car.
~ In second week of lockdown ~
SABA--With Saba in a mandatory lockdown since April 12, Island Governor Jonathan Johnson in his most recent message urged people to continue to show understanding and patience in these “trying times” in which “everyone experienced occasional frustrations.”
Johnson informed of some developments that would take place on Tuesday, April 21. The Saba University School of Medicine semester has ended and students have been leaving the island. Another group left the island in the morning, and Johnson told people not to be alarmed if they saw large groups of students waiting to be picked up to go to the airport.
Two residents returned to Saba on Tuesday afternoon. These persons, as the measures prescribe, went into quarantine right away. Like everyone in quarantine, they will be tested at the end of the 14-day quarantine period.
A number of persons in quarantine were asked to come to the drive-in clinic at A.M. Edwards Medical Centre on Tuesday for testing. These persons had permission from government to go to the appointment.
Johnson urged people who experience flu-like symptoms to contact the medical centre. This also counts if people know someone who shows these symptoms but does not want to alert the hospital. He said it was “very important” to trace and test every lead to check the extent of the spread of coronavirus COVID-19 in the community.
“During times like this, it is vital that we are honest about the state of our health in order to allow the medical teams to take the necessary steps to contain the spread of COVID-19,” he said.
Johnson called on people to stay positive. “As we continue to navigate through this uncertain time, many changes and developments will occur, which naturally causes a feeling of unrest. So, take a moment each day to clear your mind of negativity and focus instead on things that bring you joy.”
Ask Dr. Koen
Saba still has two confirmed COVID-19 patients and one suspected patient, who was transferred to St. Maarten. All three patients are doing well, said Public Health Department head Dr. Koen Hulshof in an interview with Saskia Matthew of the Government Information Service (GIS) on Monday.
The government introduced an informative audio format named “Ask Dr. Koen” last week, in which Hulshof answers questions. The public was requested to send their questions, and many did so.
In the second edition of the interview, Hulshof provided an update and answered a number of questions relating to testing, the spread of the coronavirus and the symptoms of COVID-19.
Hulshof confirmed that the number of persons who were tested was 44, of which 35 tests came back negative and seven are pending. A total of 58 persons are quarantined, mostly as a result of the direct contact they had with one of the three patients.
Responding to a question as to why (some) test results are taking so long, Hulshof explained that there were two types of tests: the molecular test and the blood test. So far, the tests that local authorities have been reported on concern the molecular test, which consists of a nose and throat swab.
The test samples go to St. Maarten or Guadeloupe to be analysed. Molecular test results from St. Maarten typically come back in one to two days. Guadeloupe takes longer.
Because the testing capacity in St. Maarten is limited, a prioritisation is done of which tests are carried out in St. Maarten and which go to Guadeloupe. The samples of persons in Saba who were at the end of their quarantine were deemed a lower priority and were sent to Guadeloupe.
Hulshof said that with the expected increase in testing capacity in St. Maarten by the end of this week, more tests can be analysed there instead of having to send them to Guadeloupe.
As for the blood test, Hulshof explained that this test is used to check for antibodies after someone has had the virus. The blood test is not to check whether a person has the virus at that particular moment.
There are some technical difficulties with the current blood test which is still new. “There is no reliable version as yet. This is the problem with the testing of the third Saba patient who went to St. Maarten,” Hulshof explained.
Hulshof addressed a question that many persons had: are there people in Saba who are without symptoms (asymptomatic) or with mild symptoms, and how does government deal with this?
“Sadly, this is true. We may have people walking around asymptomatic or with mild symptoms. For people with mild symptoms, we urge them to call the hospital. And, there is always a chance that a person has the virus and does not know. That is why the stay-at-home measure is so important. This contains the spreading. People simply need to stop moving around.”
Local authorities are in the process of trying to find out how widespread the virus is on the island. Much more testing was done last week to help determine that. Also, authorities have been talking to persons who returned to Saba just before the borders closed to find out how the virus came to the island.
“First indications are that the virus is not widely spread, but it is too soon to draw strong conclusions, and any exit strategy can only be discussed in the Management Outbreak Team after we have more clarity on the spreading,” he said.
Important factors too are how the situation develops in St. Maarten and the status of health care on Saba’s sister island.
The coronavirus will be around for quite some time. “People need to realise that this pandemic will be going on for a long time. We will try to contain the virus as much as possible. We also have to weigh the negative effects of the current measures. For many, it causes extra stress and financial problems, and children should not be out of school for too long, and we also need to provide regular health care to the people,” said Hulshof.