A period of increased vigilance will begin in the Falkland Islands after one positive case of Covid-19 was confirmed. Falklands' lawmaker MLA Leona Roberts delivered the news at a Tuesday afternoon press conference, joined by Chief Medical Officer Dr Rebecca Edwards and Chief Executive Barry Rowland.
MLA Roberts stated those at risk of severe illness may be asked to self-isolate and routine health services may alter.
“This does not mean that we are going into lockdown or that we intend to instigate a period of lockdown in the near future,” said MLA Roberts. “Schools, the library and college will remain open along with nurseries and child-minders. Businesses and services are to stay open and will be encouraged to work in ways that limit the spread of infection.”
Changes to quarantine legislation agreed by Executive Council Tuesday morning were announced by Mr Rowland. The Chief Executive said, “if a person in quarantine does not stay isolated from other people staying in the same accommodation, then all those people must stay in quarantine together.” This change to legislation tightens up the current system where people living with someone who is quarantining do not have to quarantine along with them.
Passengers arriving at Mount Pleasant Airport will have three options to travel to Stanley. People can use the FIG mandated transport between Stanley and the airport, leave an empty vehicle at MPA to drive back to Stanley to enter quarantine, or be collected by friends or family who will have to enter quarantine with the passenger upon return to Stanley.
CMO Dr. Edwards at the media conference confirmed that the Falklands had received the first civilian positive case of Covid 19 in the Islands, which was discovered following a positive surveillance swabbing result processed by the KEMH laboratory. The individual in question has been in quarantine since their arrival in the Falkland Islands on 5 November. They will continue to remain in quarantine until their 14-day period of exclusion is complete and they will also need to test negative for the virus twice before they can leave quarantine. The individual has not been in need of hospitalization.
Dr. Edwards .said that since their arrival, at no point has this person ever had contact with the wider community, they have been in quarantine with other family members who also remain in quarantine. Besides everyone who travelled on the same flight as the person who tested positive has already been contacted using the approved track and trace protocols. They are all in quarantine and are being offered the opportunity to have three swabs taken during that 14-day period.
Because the program is not mandatory as it is an invasive procedure, but it is encouraged as it provides people with the personal assurance that they are not infected with the virus. To date the uptake has been, and continues to be, very high. Track and trace protocols have also been applied to other people who came into contact with passengers from the flight, including those working in customs and immigration, and transportation.
Because of the recent circumstances surrounding the airbridge, it has also been necessary to instigate track and trace protocols for passengers who would have come into contact with the person who tested positive, but who did not arrive on the same flight as them. For example, everyone who arrived on the flight Monday night are also being contacted and the same applies for anyone involved in processing passengers from that same flight. KEMH is offering everyone the opportunity to be swabbed as a precaution, even those not in quarantine.
Finally it was always expected that regular testing would produce a positive result and this has demonstrated that surveillance swabbing during quarantine is working in the way intended. This is very important as you can be a carrier of Covid-19 without exhibiting any symptoms or becoming unwell. It also means that we will now enter a period of increased vigilance as per our emergency planning procedures. Increased vigilance means that we know there is a case of Covid-19 in the Falkland Islands and that, if the situation becomes more serious, the government may change its guidance.
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This situation shows that the Falklands, with its unique and, arguably, fragile infrastructure should have adopted the New Zealand approach: no international arrivals allowed. Obviously this could not apply to the naval and military forces, but they have their own protocols which don’t impact on the civilian population. The person who arrived on 5 November in an infectious state should not have been allowed to enter the Islands, nor should anyone else via the air bridge, following the NZ example.Nov 11th, 2020 - 10:16 am -1