THE Falklands has seen a number of significant developments in the ongoing Covid-19 situation in the last week, including the arrival of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine; reports of the virus on fishing ships bound for the Islands; two positive tests of Covid-19 from clinicians at MPC, and a subsequent change in clinical processes at the King Edward Memorial Hospital (KEMH) due to a Covid-19 inpatient being admitted to the hospital.

The vaccine arrived on the airbridge on February 1, welcomed by MLA Leona Roberts, CMO Dr Rebecca Edwards and HE the Governor Nigel Phillips, outside the hospital. MLA Roberts stated: “Although we are 8,000 miles away, we are still part of the UK family, and are very grateful that the UK government has allocated us enough vaccines to be able to immunise those people who are most susceptible to Covid-19 in our society.”

On Tuesday FIG responded to questions from Penguin News regarding reports of cases on fishing vessels bound for the Islands for the season. An FIG spokesperson responded that the cases “that have been reported are in transit and not in Falklands Waters. FIG will follow existing policy on vessel arrivals and only those that are “clean” as defined within the policy will be allowed to enter our waters (12-mile territorial waters).”

FIG also confirmed that a vessel had diverted to the Falklands on the way to the Islands for assistance with a Covid-19 case: “This diversion was undertaken in order to ensure that medical support could be obtained for crew members showing symptoms.”

Following the admission of a Covid-19 patient to KEMH clinical process changes were announced on February 2. These changes included the establishment of separate teams for the hot and cold areas of the hospital; hot staff being lateral flow tested every three days, and social distancing; all KEMH staff are now wearing masks, in both hot and cold areas; and some clinics were cancelled.

FIG also confirmed a change in quarantine and visitor policies as part of their regular review of policies, protocols and legislations surrounding the virus. The new quarantine regulation, coming into force on February 8, is that all people arriving into the Islands from February 15 onwards must undertake quarantine, and are now prohibited from sharing the same accommodation as anyone not quarantining.

A change was also made to non-essential visitor policy, namely that conservation and environmental specialists were removed as a separate category. An FIG statement noted: “This change was made to ensure that only specialists with a genuine business need can enter the Islands and to prevent any misunderstanding of the category.”

At the monthly Q&A session on February 4, speaking about the two positive cases from clinicians at MPC, CMO Dr Edwards said: “We’ve learned some lessons from what’s happened at the med-center at MPC.” Dr Edwards indicated the main response was the new policy for separate hot and cold ward teams to reduce spread should Covid-19 case present itself.

Speaking of what can be done when a passenger refuses to wear a mask on the airbridge MLA Roberts said: “Police investigated claims of a possible breach of quarantine regulations and these were found to be incorrect. In terms of mask wearing on the flight, the police can only investigate a matter like that if a complaint was formally received from Air Tanker and no such complaint has been received.”

Responding to a question in regards to Airbridge restrictions Chief Executive Barry Rowland stated “We’re currently looking at the issue of the need, potentially, for tests,” of passengers before travelling southbound, and said “That matter is being considered with the MoD at the moment with the view to bring plans forward by the beginning of March.”