HAGATNA, 19 MARCH 2020 (PACIFIC ISLAND TIMES)—The Guam Department of Public Health and Social Services on Thursday reported three new cases of Covid-19 infection on Guam, bringing to eight the total number of cases on island.
The government announced the three new cases amid the Guam Medical Association’s renewed call for the governor to shut down Guam’s entry point and put the island on a two-week lockdown.
Guam’s health care system is not prepared to handle a massive Covid-19 outbreak on island, according to GMA president Dr Thomas Shieh. “Worst-case scenario, people will die,” he said.
DPHSS said it tested 20 individuals on 18 March . Seventeen tested negative for SARS-CoV-2. The lab in Tamuning has done a total of 65 tests since 12 March.
“To date, a total of eight cases tested positive and 57 cases tested negative for Covid-19. The government of Guam (GovGuam) is aggressively implementing its planned Covid-19 response to identify and contain transmission of Covid-19 in Guam,” the Joint Information Center said.
All three new cases remain in isolation, JIC said. The DPHSS said it continues contact-tracing for the eight positive Covid-19 cases to identify the people who may have been in contact with the infected patients, most of whom previously traveled to Manila.
Guam senators backed up GMA’s call for a lockdown, asking Gov. Lourdes Leon Guerrero to “implore the Federal Aviation Administration, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol and United States Department of Homeland Security directly to prohibit all inbound flights as we stop the spread of Covid-19, and recover as a community.”
The number of Covid-19 cases on Guam is anticipated to climb as the government beefs up its efforts to trace individuals who may have been in contact with the infected patients or had the same travel itinerary.
The Federated States of Micronesia has reported three persons under investigation, one in Pohnpei and two in Yap, whose samples are currently being tested on Guam.
Based on experts’ estimates, the number of actual infections in a given location is typically seven to 10 times more than the cases detected.
“At this time, we have an adequate supply of test kits and our request for additional kits has been submitted,” Press Secretary Krystal Paco said.
Meanwhile, Shieh appealed to the governor “to do the right thing: lock down the island immediately.”
The Guam airport, Shieh said, must be closed on all flights for the next two weeks to stop additional entry of more viruses. “Your decision will determine the fate of thousands of lives, we must take these steps to ensure Guam and the people are protected,” Shieh said in an open letter to the governor posted on his Facebook page.
Shieh said placing the entire Guam on lockdown will make it easier to control the spread of the virus and allow the health care community to “come up with a better pandemic plan.”
“Many counties have done it and now some of the states have already implemented their lockdown,” Shieh wrote. “Only essential health care personnel and safety team are to be out. You can call out the Guam National Guard to maintain order.”
In a letter the governor, members of the 35th Guam Legislature is seeking a quick response.
“As we are learning from the slow responses of certain countries and their detrimental consequences, and the successes in containment from other jurisdictions- we believe a complete shelter-in-place order of our island is necessary to stop the spread of this pandemic,” they wrote.
They also noted the community’s concerns over the lack of test kits and supplies available for residents
With thousands of passengers rushing to flee Manila before the Philippine government shuts down the country’s main terminal on Friday, the Guam airport is on alert for an influx of arrivals to the island.
All travelers arriving from Manila will be placed on mandatory quarantine for 14 days unless they get a clean bill of health, the Office of the Governor said.
After meeting with Customs and Quarantine Director Ike Peredo, Speaker Tina Muna Barnes and Senato Jose “Pedo” Terlaje asked the administration just to close Guam’s border.
Terlaje expressed doubt over the government’s ability to manage the quarantine process. “Who is going to watch them to make sure they stay in their rooms?” he asked. “And if they are to be quarantined in their room and can’t go out anyway, why would a tourist come here?”
Terlaje said Guam “should just close the border, protect our people from further exposure and aggressively trace contacts of those infected and conduct extensive tests.”
“We have to come together as a community to overcome this and the community sentiment is clear – for our health and safety, close our borders for now,” Muña Barnes said……PACNEWS