Flu? No Pass!

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Solomon Islands Ports Authority
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SIPA carries out check-ups on Chinese crews for coronavirus

BY BARNABAS MANEBONA

SOLOMON Islands Ports Authority (SIPA) is taking proactive measures against the feared ‘China coronavirus (2019-nCoV)’, in checking all ship crews of Chinese origin before they are given shore passes.

SIPA’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Mr Eranda Kotelawala, says their International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) are doing the check-ups, as they are now planning to set up a mechanism to do health checks.

Kotelawala said doing health checks will be with the support of health authorities, as they need to be certain that ship crews are not infected or carriers of the Chinese coronavirus.

“Our ISPS is checking all ship crew of Chinese origin before they are given shore passes or at the time of entry to Solomon Islands. We are now planning to set-up a mechanism to do a health check with the support of NRH/Ministry of Health as we need ascertain they are not infected or carriers of the virus.

“We will be closely monitoring the situation and getting updates from Ship’s master for any health situation on board to make sure such crew are isolated and do not disembark,” said Kotelawala.

With the rising fear of ‘coronavirus’ spreading, Solomon Airlines Corporate Manager Bill Tyson when asked about SolAir’s stand on this issue said, “The Ministry of Health carried out an excellent exercise in dealing with the potentially serious Measles situation and I have every confidence they will do likewise with this current flu outbreak.”

Regarding the health ministry’s claim of having taken proactive steps to prevent China coronavirus, Mr Tyson said he is not sure on what these steps will be, but they are awaiting advice.

“I am not sure what these steps will be and what they will expect from the airline. We are awaiting advice from them,” said Solomon Airlines Corporate Manager.

Adding to MHMS proactive action to prevent possible importation of novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) in Solomon Islands is increasing surveillance of influenza like-illness in the Country and at points of entry, and information for travellers entering and leaving the country, among other measures.

“Considering how close these countries are to Solomon Islands, and the number of people travelling especially in the upcoming Lunar New Year season, the likelihood of importation of this infection in Solomon Islands cannot be ruled out. We want to reassure the public we are preparing for that possibility,” MHMS Permanent Secretary Mrs Pauline McNeil said in a Press Statement this week.

“The MHMS has formed a technical working group, including experts from the World Health Organization, and UNICEF. The essential medical supplies to handle cases of 2019-nCoV are being mobilized, and development partners are standing by with additional resources should these be needed. As a ‘first line’ of defence MHMS is working with immigration and customs officials at ports and airports, training them on how to recognize cases of 2019-nCoV, incoming visitors will be provided with guidance on what to do if they think they have the infection.”

In the meantime, Mrs McNeil advices that the public should remain alert for signs or symptoms of the disease especially if they have visited Wuhan in the past 15 days or have come in close contact with someone returning from affected countries and had similar symptoms.

These patients should contact their local clinic or nurse aid post if they think they could possibly have the disease, calling in advance if possible so that they can be assessed at home or isolated on arrival at the health facility.

“Anyone with suspected infection should avoid public transport and public spaces and remain at home except to seek professional health care, or as advised by a health professional.

“To prevent the infection from spreading to others, practice health habits such as cover cough and sneezes, avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth, and wash your hands often. If your family member has flu-like infection, limit contact with the family member and keep your house clean.

Solomon Islands citizens having discussed Australia as Solomon Islands neighbour now battling the coronavirus reporting five cases so far, worry that it would be only a matter of time before the country will experience the same situation if there is slack monitoring on travellers coming into the country.

The outbreak of the new coronavirus that began in the Chinese city of Wuhan has already killed 81 people in China.

According to the “New York Times’, infections have been confirmed in many other countries, but of the nearly 3,000 people who have so far contracted the virus, the vast majority live in China.

The coronavirus was first detected in early December 2019. It is reported to be a member of the coronavirus family that has never been encountered before.

Like other coronaviruses, it has come from animals or possibly seafood.

The virus causes pneumonia. Those who have fallen ill are reported to suffer coughs, fever and breathing difficulties. In severe cases there can be organ failure.

As this is viral pneumonia, antibiotics are of no use. The antiviral drugs present against flu will not work.

If people are admitted to hospital, they may get support for their lungs and other organs as well as fluids. Recovery will depend on the strength of their immune system as many of those who have died are known to have already been in poor health.

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