Though a number of residents recently tested positive for COVID-19, the British Virgin Islands is presently not experiencing any form of community spread of the virus and has not detected locally transmitted cases in almost four months.
This is according to the Acting Chief Medical Officer of the Ministry of Health, Dr Ronald Georges who explained that community spread only happens when the health authorities are unable to trace confirmed cases through chains of transmission for a large number of cases.
Dr Georges made the disclosure in an interview with BVI News following the territory’s recent increase in active cases to 18.
He said: “Community spread or community transmission connotes a whole different level of risk to the population and our economy. We are clearly not at that point.”
“Where we are is that our systems have caught a situation very early in evolution where we can make a course correction and hopefully avert a more difficult situation. We can consider this a serious wake up call to make the necessary adjustments and strengthen our adherence to and enforcement of the necessary protocols,” he further assured.
Highly likely the recent cases were imported
Health Minister Carvin Malone announced on Friday January 8, that investigations were ongoing into two recent COVID-19 cases, where two visitors tested positive during their exit screening to leave the territory.
The two visitors had previously tested negative on their arrival into the territory and on Day 4 of their mandatory quarantine period.
This disparity prompted BVI News to ask Dr Georges where was the origin of the virus since the visitors’ previous two tests in the territory were negative.
He replied: “What we are looking at here is persons who have entered the territory after having already contracted the COVID-19 virus and being within the incubation period of the virus have tested negative pre-travel, Day 0, and Day 4.”
“The incubation period before infection manifests as clinical symptoms, and in particular, the virus that can be detected in the nasopharynx varies between zero and fourteen days. And in exceptional cases, [it can take] as long as 21 days. The majority of persons will test positive between one and eight days with a number taking as long as 14 days,” he explained.
No cases of transmission locally since September
Dr Georges also revealed that since the last outbreak which occurred in the territory from late August to September, the local lab has processed thousands of samples for the virus and has not detected any local transmissions since then.
“We have not detected any cases of COVID-19 transmitted in the BVI since 18th of September. It is highly unlikely and basically improbable that the infection originated in the BVI. All cases previously were detected only in persons entering the territory. Our communicable disease surveillance system and sentinel screening have likewise not detected any evidence of transmission in the territory. Data is collected on a weekly basis from all health facilities about trends in all communicable disease and syndromes. Once any increases are detected they are investigated,” Dr Georges explained.
He added: “We also have a number of areas of sentinel surveillance for COVID-19 which are ongoing. All persons seen in the Emergency Room and admitted, all persons attending for surgery in the public or private sector, any person attending any health facility with COVID-like symptoms or similar syndrome are all tested for COVID-19. In addition, all persons leaving the territory are routinely tested, and all air and sea crew and also front-line workers are periodically tested.”
Meanwhile, Dr Georges said the contact tracing efforts on the latest positive cases have had promising results, with three close contacts being linked to one case.
He also noted that all of the casual contacts linked to the recent cases have so far returned negative results.
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