Gov’t says no request received from J’cans to leave Wuhan, China

JAMAICA’S foreign ministry says it has not yet received requests for repatriation from any of the Jamaican nationals living in the Wuhan area of Hubei Province, China, the epicentre of the deadly, and fast-spreading coronavirus. In a statement issued yesterday, Foreign Minister Senator Kamina Johnson Smith said the Jamaican Embassy in Beijing has “strengthened its outreach to Jamaicans in the Wuhan area of Hubei province” and that the number of persons with whom the ministry is now in contact has increased to 29.
She advised that Whatsapp groups have been set up to address food and supplies issues affecting Jamaicans, while the embassy has shared a list of 24-hour hotlines obtained from Hubei Foreign Affairs Office with the Jamaicans to provide them with assistance and guidance during the crisis.
“We understand that they have since had direct assistance through this medium,” said the minister. She said the embassy will follow up with the authorities on behalf of the Jamaicans if they experience further challenges.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the dreaded illness has now spread to 15 countries, with the number of confirmed cases now at 6,065 up to yesterday. This is 1,472 more cases in two days, 68 of which were outside of mainland China.
There are also another 9,239 suspected cases, 1,239 of them severe, and 132 deaths from the coronavirus.
Countries including India, United States, European Union, Britain, and Italy, have begun to airlift their citizens out of the Wuhan area.In Parliament on Tuesday, Opposition spokesperson on foreign affairs, Lisa Hanna questioned whether the Government would be willing to repatriate citizens of Jamaica who want to return if threat levels become too high, or if they would be allowed to re-enter the country.
Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton said the Government would not refuse entry to nationals who want to return home but noted that the Chinese Government has imposed some travel restrictions.
“Once you would have manoeuvred that, then those persons clearly would be allowed in but subject to appropriate quarantine arrangements [which] could be isolation, staying home for a period of time and [being] checked on by medical practitioners,” Tufton said.
Several countries, including Jamaica, have also issued travel alerts. And there have been reports of people who have never gone to China getting sick in places such as Japan, Taiwan, Germany, and Vietnam.
At least one airline – British Airways – has grounded all flights to China and Hong Kong and has restricted cross-border travel between the Chinese mainland and Hong Kong. According to international reports, there are now more cases of coronavirus in China than the SARS outbreak of 2002.
Countries with cases of the virus include Japan, Republic of Korea, Vietnam, Singapore, Australia, Malaysia, Cambodia, Thailand, Nepal, Sri Lanka, United States of America, Canada, France, Germany, and the United Arab Emirates. All have confirmed single-digit cases of the virus, except Thailand, which has 14 cases.
The WHO says exported cases of coronavirus have been detected through entry screening implemented by some countries.
It noted that symptomatic cases can be detected through temperature screening but that this method of detecting potential suspect cases at points of entry may miss travellers incubating the disease, or travellers concealing fever during travel.
“A focused approach targeting direct flights from affected areas could be more effective and less resource-demanding. If entry screening is implemented, temperature screening should always be accompanied by dissemination of risk communication messages at points of entry,” the WHO advised.
On Tuesday, the health minister assured Parliament that the island’s airports do have working, thermal-screening infrastructure. However, hand-held digital thermal scanners have been stolen, forcing the use of analogue devices until additional digital devices are sourced, he disclosed.