Chief Environmental Health Officer Lionel Michael has sought to dispel public fear and misconceptions surrounding the dreaded coronavirus, which has killed 361 persons in China alone and infected 17,000 people globally.
In an interview with BVI News recently, Michael said while leaders have the right to implement any stringent measures that they think is going to protect their people, the World Health Organization (WHO) has not recommended any banning of travellers, and their recommendations seek to guard against disruption of travel and trade.
Michael said: “We have not seen the benefits of all the diseases that have been declared a public health emergency of any reduction in diseases transmission by banning travellers. Again, I want to underscore that countries can do what they want to, to protect their population, but we have to assess what is the risk, what are the benefits of banning people from coming to our country. Is that going to result in a reduction and a prevention of the disease? We don’t know, we have not seen it.”
He continued: “We have to find ways to get people to wash their hands and adopt personal hygiene measures because if we continue with this banning, soon from now the world will be on lockdown. How you are going to have movement of people and trade, and people getting essential goods and services? You are going to create chaos and obfuscation. Can you imagine all the Caribbean islands on lockdown from one another?”
Education is key!
Instead, the Chief Environmental Health Officer said education is critical in that regard.
“We should be educating people on the prevention and control measures of the disease and people have to adopt them as part of their lifestyle. We should not be afraid because we have the weapon to use against this coronavirus. We have the tools to declare war on this virus. The fatality rate of this disease is 2 percent, Ebola was 50 percent, so far 10,000 people have died and 180,000 were hospitalized during the 2019/ 2020 flu season according to preliminary estimates from the Centre of Disease Control three days ago.”
Michael further said the Environmental Health Division in the Ministry of Health has trained 1,800 plus food handlers in 2019.
During the said programme, he said there was “an entire module” focused on hand-washing and personal hygiene.
“That information that was provided is applicable to the prevention of the Coronavirus. People should use the techniques of hand-washing, personal hygiene, to protect themselves and their families. One of the key things in washing your hands is to use running water and soap, and you are to make a lather and rub your hands together for a minimum time of 10 to 15 seconds. The entire hand-washing process will take you 20 seconds. You have to dry your hands with disposable paper towels,” Michael added.
He said persons must not wash their hands in standing water because doing so would re-contaminate one’s hands thorough the micro-organisms that remain in the water.
In the event that there is no running water, Michael advised that a makeshift hand washing station be used to allow water to run on both hands.
If a person’s hands are not very filthy, hand sanitizers with an alcohol content of 60 percent could be used liberally.
“Hand-washing and personal hygiene is the single most important measure to prevent coronavirus. But, it is a behaviour change issue; people have to have a habit of washing their hands, and don’t touch their eyes, their mouth, don’t cough in their hands,” Michael added.
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