Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton, is advising Jamaicans to brace themselves for the possible arrival of the dreaded coronavirus, COVID-19.

The rapid spread of the new strain of the coronavirus was last month designated a global health emergency by the World Health Organization.

Dr Tufton says the country may eventually get it’s first positive test of COVID-19 as the Ministry moves to restrict travel to additional countries hit by the virus.

The Health Minister was speaking at a media briefing this afternoon where he updated the nation on the next steps in ongoing efforts to prevent COVID-19 from reaching Jamaica.

He says the measures being put in place are essentially a delaying tactic to keep the virus out of the island as long as possible.

According to the Health Minister, it’s now more a case of when and not if the coronavirus will come to Jamaica.

Dr Tufton says while the nation continues to take additional precautions against the fast spreading COVID-19, the chances of it coming to Jamaica are real.

COVID-19 which was first detected in Wuhan, China, has spread to more than 45 countries affecting 80-thousand people and killing over two-thousand.

This has prompted the Health Ministry to expand it’s travel restrictions to four more countries.

This means, the restrictions which were put in place for China will now extend to Italy, South Korea, Singapore and Iran.

The Ministry is also assessing whether it should institute restrictions on travel to and from Japan, which has suspended school in order to control the spread of the virus.

However, just yesterday the United States recorded its first case of what is being called community transmission of COVID-19.

This means the infected individual has no history of travel to a country where there’s an outbreak of the virus.

When asked if the government would consider restricting travel to and from the US, if the situation deteriorates, Dr. Tufton had this to say.

Minister Tufton says as of February 26, 141-persons arrived in Jamaica who’d been in China in the last 14 days, five persons are in quarantine in government facilities, another five are in home quarantine and two people are in isolation awaiting test results.

There’s so far been no confirmed case of COVID-19 on the island.

National Disaster Response Committee To Coordinate Response

Health Minister, Dr. Christopher Tufton, says the National Disaster Response Committee, has been convened.

It’s first meeting is scheduled for next week in order to further coordinate the management of the COVID-19 threat.

The Health Minister says the committee will discuss the state of readiness for the virus.

Dr. Christopher Tufton, Minister of Health and Wellness.

Meanwhile, the country’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Jacqueline Bisasor-McKenzie, says they are using Jamaica’s previous experience with the outbreak of the H1N1 influenza to craft a policy to tackle the spread of COVID-19.

She says this will be used to bridge any gaps that may exist in in the health system.

Dr. Jacqueline Bisasor-McKenzie, Chief Medical Officer.