#Jamaica – March 25, 2020 (JIS) — The Ministry of Health and Wellness is calling on passengers of specific flights to make contact with them, as the country works to stave off the coronavirus (COVID-19).
In an interview with JIS News, Director for the Emergency, Disaster Management and Special Services Branch at the Ministry, Dr. Nicole Dawkins-Wright, explained that there are numerous reasons for reaching out to persons who may have come into the island on a particular flight.
She said it is important for persons to self-identify to reduce the level of risk for themselves and for their loved ones.
“If, for example, we recognise that there’s an individual who becomes ill and it is detected in our system that they came in on a flight, then there is scientific support to gauge the level of risk to the persons who were in the immediate vicinity of that person while in flight,” she said.
Dr. Dawkins-Wright noted that this information would have been taken from the flight manifest, which the airport operators would have had from fairly early, and that the health authorities would have already reached out to the persons who are at highest risk, even before the call goes out to the public for persons to call.
“We do know that… while the greatest risk is for those who are around those persons for extended periods, short flights (less than two hours) are not so bad,” she said.
“The longer flights tend to be the ones that are more concerning, especially because on those flights people are more likely to move about in the cabin,” she added.
Dr. Dawkins-Wright explained that the Ministry has increased its capacity for this response by partnering with a business process outsourcing entity “to develop a call centre that allows persons to call in, so that we can screen those individuals”.
“That allows us to reach people who are on the flight a lot faster, although we would have already identified those at highest risk,” she said.
According to Dr. Dawkins-Wright, the system is also used as a means to allay fears that passengers may have about possible exposure to COVID-19.
“We know as well that with the current situation, when people realise that an infected person was on their flight, persons are going to be anxious and need to be reassured, so we open up and say that this is a flight of concern,” she said.
According to Dr. Dawkins-Wright, when persons call the Ministry, personnel can help to reduce the level of anxiety and panic in the population.