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Covid‑19

Its impact on St Helena

And by the way, the virus. They’re working hard. Looks like by April, you know, in theory, when it gets a little warmer, it miraculously goes away. I hope that’s true.{b}

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Covid‑19 impacted St Helena long before actually spreading here

Covid‑19

The Coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid‑19): an infectious disease caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). It was first identified in December 2019 in Wuhan, Hubei, China, and resulted in a pandemic. This page sets out a summary of the disease’s impact on St Helena from March 2020 until the time of writing and will be updated as the situation changes.

Please note that the opinions presented in the quotes from US President Donald Trump are his own and do not necessarily align with scientifically accepted fact or historically verifiable reality.

Impact on St Helena

Below: 202020212022

2020

Emergency flight at the Airport, 20th April 2020
Emergency flight at the Airport, 20th April 2020{c}
2nd flight at the Airport, 31st July 2020
2nd flight at the Airport, 31st July 2020{c}

Measures to limit the spread of the Covid‑19 virus were first announced in the middle of March 2020. These included effectively closing the island to tourists and cancelling most of the island’s forthcoming social events. Interestingly, the island’s bars were not forced to close. During these announcements it was admitted that St Helena did not at that time have any kits to test for the virus - they were expected to arrive within the next two weeks (they actually arrived on 20th April). The MV Helena brought medical supplies (but no testing kits) from Ascension Island in mid-April. With South Africa on ‘lockdown’ flights to St Helena were suspended after the 13th March flight, but an emergency Airbus A318 flight from the UK, via Ghana & Ascension Island, chartered from Titan Airways, arrived on 20th April (photo, right) with testing kits, other medical equipment and a few returning Saints, all of whom were immediately placed in strict quarantine at the Bradley’s Camp. You can see a poster published by the Government of St Helena just after the Camp opened. Additional ventilators were not included in the cargo and were expected on the next call of the MV Helena. The people that arrived on the 20th April flight were released from quarantine on 5th May - untested for Covid‑19 because training in use of the testing kits had still not been completed.

On 19th May a ‘repatriation flight’ brought back Saints stranded in South Africa due to their Covid‑19 lockdown; everybody went into 14-day quarantine at Bradley’s Camp. St Helena’s Day was not formally celebrated this year due to Covid‑19 though some local events were organised despite official encouragement to follow social distancing guidelines.

On 4th June it was finally announced that Covid‑19 testing was finally operational on St Helena, eleven weeks after it had been announced that testing would be available within the next two weeks. It was confirmed at the same time that all future quarantine residents at Bradley’s Camp would be tested before being released into the community. On 24th June, with no evidence of Covid‑19 having entered St Helena, the Government of St Helena suspended Social Distancing and opened the island to anyone wishing to enter St Helena, subject to the usual 14-day Quarantine period. Flights, however, remained suspended due to restrictions in South Africa.

You know testing is a double-edged sword. Here’s the bad part. When you test to that extent, you are going to find more people, find more cases. So I said to my people, ‘Slow the testing down please.’{d}

In July charges were announced for persons staying in quarantine at Bradley’s Camp - £30/day for Saints (£420 total), rising to £60/day (£840 total) for others - medical referrals, etc. to be exempt. A second ‘repatriation flight’, again operated by Titan Airways but this time a Boeing 757, arrived on 30th July and departed on 31st.

The island’s Covid‑19 strategy was queried, in particular for its inevitable economic impact. See Containing COVID-19 at the price of development (Aug, 2020).

On 9th September the Government of St Helena announced that arrivals from Ascension Island would no longer have to go into compulsory Covid‑19 quarantine at Bradley’s Camp but would instead have to self-isolate in their homes, resulting in public outcry (which was ignored). A third Titan Airways Boeing 757 ‘repatriation flight’ operated in mid-September; the arrivals from Ascension Island were allowed to self-isolate in their own homes. This was repeated on 26th-28th October and 1st-3rd December.

In November it was announced that, with immediate effect, some people would be allowed to self-isolate at home rather than being forced into quarantine at Bradley’s Camp. There was considerable public concern about this decision, which was seen as a weakening of the island’s defences against Covid‑19. A protest march was held on 12th December but the decision was not changed.

2020 Christmas joke: Why was production down at Santa’s workshop? Many of his workers had to Elf-isolate!{e}

2021

MV Helena
MV Helena{f}

A further ‘repatriation flight’ was operated on 11th/13th January 2021 with restricted passengers due to the new highly-infectious strain of Covid‑19 spreading in the UK (the Δ variant). The flight brought 100 doses of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine, designated for front-line and health staff. On 14th January it was announced that, due to the new highly-infectious strain of Covid‑19 spreading in South Africa (the Δ variant), the MV Helena would no longer carry passengers from there to St Helena (travel to South Africa, and to and from Ascension Island was not affected).

From 18th February all outbound travellers requiring a Covid‑19 test were to be charged £75 (incoming tests remained free). The ‘repatriation flight’ operated at the end of February brought enough Oxford AstraZeneca Covid‑19 vaccine to inoculate the entire adult population. The process began immediately.

In March Executive Council, acting as the Incident Executive Group (IEG), announced that from May a quarantine-free ‘Travel Corridor’ would exist between St Helena and Ascension Island, subject to certain restrictions: persons must have spent at least two weeks on the island they are travelling from; must have had a negative Covid‑19 test 72 hours before departure; would be kept separate on the flight; and would need to follow PPE and hand-washing protocols. IEG repealed Immigration Regulations that restricted entry to St Helena with effect from 1st April 2021 and, as a result, individuals could now enter St Helena (by air or sea), subject to restricted conditions (including strict testing and a mandatory 14-day quarantine period).

In July it was reported that a person had been fined £2,000 for breaching Covid‑19 home quarantine. The vaccination programme completed on 24th April with 95.1% of the eligible population fully vaccinated, making St Helena the 2nd most vaccinated country in the world (after Gibraltar). In June it was announced that, due to the Covid‑19 situation in South Africa, the charter flights direct to the UK will continue until March 2022.

My plan: we’re gonna crush the virus very quickly. It’s happening already. It’s happening.{g}

In October, as a sign that tourism might be about to re-open after Covid‑19, Tourist Information Office representative Matt Joshua was extensively quoted in a BBC Article about yachties stranded here during the pandemic - the article is reproduced below. In late-November 2021 it was officially announced that Airlink flights were likely to resume in March 2022; the very same day the Ο variant was discovered in South Africa, putting the flight-resumption plan into question.

Two announcements at the end of December 2021 brought hope that the global pandemic might be coming to an end. The Mantis Hotel said that it would reopen in September 2022, having been temporarily closed in June 2020; and the Government of St Helena announced that the air service with Airlink would resume on 26th March 2022 with tickets going on sale from 3rd January 2022 (the monthly Titan Airways service direct to the UK would close with the 7th March service).

I came up with a vaccine, with three vaccines.{h}

2022

A yacht arrived in the first week of January but was turned away because all onboard tested positive for Covid‑19. It was confirmed on 18th January 2022 that a family in quarantine on St Helena were infected with the Ο variant of Covid‑19; the first time this has been confirmed, but not (if rumours are to be believed) the first time it has happened.

A proposed visit in March by VIPs who had requested entry without quarantine was not approved by Executive Council - the VIPs were requested to reschedule their visit for later in the year.

The final charter flight left for the UK on 9th March, prior to the resumption of flights via Johannesburg at the end of the month. The first flight via Johannesburg did indeed arrive on 26th March 2022 - services were planned to be initially fortnightly with no date announced for the resumption of weekly flights. There were no reductions in the island’s quarantine arrangements.

On 14th April it was reported that several cases of Covid‑19 had recently been identified during Home Quarantine but still none in the general community. The procedure for testing arrivals by sea (i.e. yachts) changed in April, moving from ‘last-port-of-call’ monitoring to on-board Lateral Flow self-testing.

On Tuesday 26th April Executive Council agreed a roadmap for returning the island to post-Covid‑19 normality. As a first step, with effect from the flight on Saturday 7th May all vaccinated arrivals will need only to spend seven days in quarantine (unvaccinated arrivals will still spend ten days), and the requirement for a pre-arrival negative test result was removed (tests on arrival will remain). The email, part of which is reproduced below, was issued by the Government of St Helena on 17th May and widely circulated, creating much comment on Social Media about the unique opportunity of living with Covid‑19:

SHG Living With Covid‑19

It has been over two years since the Covid‑19 pandemic began. St Helena’s Response Plan, as well as the cooperation of St Helena’s community, has contributed to the Island remaining free from community spread. The recent reduction in quarantine arrangements was the first step of the roadmap toward St Helena moving to a ‘new normal’ - a normal the rest of the world has labelled ‘Living with Covid‑19’.

Over the coming months the community of St Helena has the unique opportunity to prepare for the eventuality of ‘Living with Covid‑19’.

On 21st June 2022 the Government of St Helena announced the abolition of Covid‑19 quarantine restrictions for all arrivals, with effect from 8th August.

Following the above announcement, on 6th July the Government of St Helena announced that weekly Airlink flights would resume from 8th October.

On 23rd July a demonstration march took place in Jamestown, protesting about the plan to remove Covid‑19 quarantine restrictions from 8th August. Fewer than 100 took part. The Government of St Helena did not alter the plan for 8th August. In response to the protest Chief Minister Julie Thomas issued the following Covid‑19 statement on 28th July 2022:

Regarding the preparedness of the Health Service to cope with community spread of Omicron BA.4 and BA.5, my Ministers and I have been assured that there will be adequate health staff resource in place. We are fully staffed with five General Practitioners, and our Nursing complement will be up to establishment by the 8th August 2022.

We have 10 ventilators, our oxygen supply is ready and we have a more than adequate supply of antivirals.

I can assure you that we have taken account of the most up-to-date information from WHO regarding variants of SARS-COV2. Throughout the pandemic there have been numerous variants, these include variants of interest (VOIs) and variants of concern (VOCs).

Currently Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 are the prevalent variants of concern and this is what our decision has been based on. The advice issued by Health as guidance to the people of St Helena has also been based on this advice.

With regard to concerns raised about food security, SHG has been working with local importers since the start of the pandemic to monitor food supplies. Currently no importer has indicated that they have come up against issues with securing food orders. This Government recognises the need to produce more food locally to reduce our reliance on imported foodstuff. This requires a longer term plan and details relating to strategies in support of this can be found in our Vision and Strategy document which is a public document.

We are aware of the rising cost of living and the subsequent impact of inflation, we have spoken about this in recent constituency meetings and will shortly be announcing a package of support to alleviate some of this pressure. It needs to be noted however that we do not have a never ending pot of money, and funding this package of support does mean that other planned work will not be able to take place because of this.

We are aware that many of you are concerned about the timing for making our decision to remove mandatory quarantine. There have been many variants of the virus over the last two years, and we will continue to see further variants during the next few years. Based on this fact, we acknowledged that there is no ideal time to remove quarantine or re-open St Helena, but we firmly believe that it is the right time. We have taken the decision to remove restrictions based primarily on the evidence that the Omicron variant, which is now the prevalent variant, is the least likely to cause serious harm to people who become infected as was evidenced by the Falkland Islands recent experience.

We understand that people are naturally apprehensive and nervous about opening up. It is correct that everything comes at a price, keeping the Island Covid‑19 free for the last 28 months has come at a huge price for this Government, and unfortunately as long as we stay closed, this price will continue to increase. In addition to the cost of remaining Covid‑19 free, there are other challenges facing us:

During the past two years there has been a huge shift in the way that Covid‑19 affects people. The virus itself has changed to become much less harmful. This is normal as ‘new’ viruses adapt to humans: over time variants of the virus which do less damage to the host tend to replace the more harmful forms. This is indeed proven by the strain of the virus that we are seeing at the moment (‘omicron’).

People have also now got much better immunity to the virus, partly through having been exposed to infection, and partly through immunisation (being vaccinated). Highly effective vaccines have been developed and rolled out rapidly around the world: St Helena has been particularly successful in getting people fully immunised, and as a result we are nearing 100% of our population, which is an outcome we should be tremendously proud off, as it demonstrates that we are a ‘responsible community’ and we are well protected.

Covid‑19 is not nearly as dangerous an infection as it used to be. Most vaccinated people who catch the virus now, only experience a very mild illness (and many may not have any symptoms at all). It is now extremely unusual for people with Covid‑19 to need to be admitted to hospital, and those that are admitted, commonly make a full recovery.

Here on St Helena, we are taking every measure to ensure that our senior citizens are protected as much as possible. You will be aware that we are committed to offering an additional booster vaccination to our senior citizens, whereby we started with those 75 years and older and we are moving down through the age groups. You will also be aware that we have robust plans in place to minimise risk to our clients in our Hospital and Care Homes. From the 8th August 2022 there will be designated areas in which people must follow strict rules. Parts of the General Hospital, and other care settings such as the Community Care Complex (CCC) will be designated as Covid‑19-Free zones; these are places that we will endeavour to keep free of Covid‑19. In an effort to achieve this, all persons needing to enter these designated ‘Covid‑19-Free’ areas for work or visiting purposes, will be required to carry out a Covid‑19 test prior to their visit, and to wear a face mask for the duration whilst they are in these areas. Numbers of visitors will be limited and children will not be allowed to visit in the first instance. It is anticipated these rules will be able to be relaxed in due course. Visitors to all care homes (e.g. the CCC) will be limited. Testing and the wearing of face masks will also be required. Families of clients have already been contacted by our Residential Development Manager to make them aware of the procedures for visiting their loved ones after the 8th August 2022.

Adapting to living with Covid‑19 will require personal responsibility, but it will also require teamwork and quite simply a caring approach to one another; features which make St Helena special and unique and have done so for decades. We are therefore encouraging you all to take responsibility for your health by following the Health Service Guidance which has been published regularly in the local papers, on the radios and the promo channel on TV.

We will need to make changes to the way we go about our daily lives, to slow down the community spread so that essential services and businesses are still able to operate and maintain service provision. This will mean practicing social distancing and maintaining good hand hygiene - washing hands with soap and water regularly, or using a hand sanitiser. If it helps you feel more comfortable, you should wear a mask or face covering as we face this new chapter together.

With a view to alleviating some of the concerns raised, we will be encouraging all persons planning to visit the island, to become double vaccinated. This will not be mandatory, noting that on the 15th July 2022 the World Health Organisation issued a statement recommending that no country should continue to require a proof of vaccination against SARS Cov2 as a condition of entry.

Most countries (139 according to WHO) have lifted all restrictions on entry and travel. This is a recognition that there is really no way to ‘partially’ live with the virus, or to restrict its spread around the world. In addition, it has been agreed that in consideration of concerns raised by you, we will also encourage arrivals to the Island to wear a face mask during their first five days when in public spaces, as a courtesy to our local community.

Again, this will not be compulsory, but we hope that this will not lead to individuals being targeted or ostracised, and I would ask that in keeping with our reputation of being friendly and community spirited, that we ensure that all arrivals continue to feel welcomed.

It is unfortunate that there has been a lot of scaremongering going on by people who are deliberately manipulating the expert advice being published, which is making this transition more difficult than it needs to be. Likewise, the Internet is a wonderful tool; however, it is also possible to gather information that will tell you what you want to hear. This is why our Health Service is relying on two key sources for information; the UK Health Security Agency and the World Health Organisation (WHO). We have been relying on and following the advice of these organisations since the Pandemic started in early 2020, and we have no reason to doubt this advice.

We understand that you are nervous, we all are; however, given that the virus is likely to be with us for the foreseeable future, we recognise that we have to take the plunge and re-join the rest of the world along with our sister Island Ascension which is due to open on the 1st August and the Falkland Islands which has now been open for the last two months and is living with Covid‑19 and coping very well.

I sincerely believe the same can be achieved here on St Helena if we continue to work together with the aim of looking after ourselves and those around us. I therefore urge you to keep following the advice of our medical professionals, as they continue to broadcast messages on local radio, TV and the local paper. If you have further questions, then please don’t be afraid to ask them through your respective district councillor. Collectively we will endeavour to always come back to you and provide you with the relevant answers.

We can overcome this and build a brighter better St Helena for everybody.

Yours sincerely
Julie Thomas
Chief Minister
St Helena Government

Prior to the ending of quarantine, and for some months afterwards, the local TV channel started showing almost-continuous repeats of locally-made programmes talking about Covid‑19 and how to slow the spread on St Helena.

The island did indeed ‘open to Covid‑19’ on 8th August 2022. Those still in quarantine were released, though a few known to be infected opted to stay in quarantine until they achieved a negative virus test. Initially there were no reports of infections, though mask-wearing and social distancing were gradually adopted by most people.

The first flight since the ending of quarantine arrived on 13th August, bringing inter alia the new Governor Nigel Phillips. For most people this was the start of ‘opening to Covid‑19’.

Inevitably, mask-wearing gradually fell off. The photograph below was taken of the Proclamation of King Charles III on 11th September 2022 at the Courthouse in Jamestown. Note that only one person is wearing a mask…

The official advice was that anyone who tested positive for Covid‑19 should stay at home for five days. Some employers allocated additional sick leave for this but many did not, so not everybody could afford to comply. As the virus spread in the community some businesses struggled to operate and Prince Andrew School had to close on Friday 15th September due to a shortage of teachers.

At the time of writing there have been many reports of infections with Covid‑19 but no reports of deaths or hospitalisations.

Terminology

This is a plain-English guide to Covid‑19-specific terms used on this page. For more comprehensive definitions see the Wikipedia.

Anti-Viral

Drugs that can be administered to an infected person to minimise the adverse effects of Covid‑19.

Home Isolation

A form Quarantine where the persons stay in a designated property (e.g. their own home), which is itself isolated so that goods may go in but nobody and nothing comes out.

Incident Executive Group (IEG)

Whenever a serious circumstance threatens St Helena the Executive Council meets as the Incident Executive Group (IEG) and is empowered to make decisions related to dealing with the emergency.

Lockdown

Where people are required to stay in their homes; not go to work; not go out for recreational purposes; and go shopping only in a fully socially distanced way. At the time of writing St Helena has not imposed any periods of Lockdown.

Pandemic

Extreme version of an epidemic affecting multiple countries/continents.

PPE

Personal Protective Equipment: clothing including face masks and gloves which is intended to protect the wearer from contracting or passing on Covid‑19. Worn by people who necessarily must come into direct contact with potentially infected persons, e.g. medical staff and customs/immigration officers.

Quarantine

Keeping a person or persons separate from the general population for a period because they may be infected with Covid‑19. The length of the quarantine period is intended to give the infection time to reveal itself.

Repatriation Flight

A flight to St Helena for the specific purpose of bringing Saints ordinarily resident here back to their homes from overseas.

Social Distancing

Where the general population minimises contact with others to limit the opportunity for spreading Covid‑19. Measures include staying two metres apart; avoiding physical contact; regularly thoroughly washing hands; and cleaning touched surfaces with an alcohol-based cleaner.

Strain

Another term for Variant.

Testing

A test that looks for antibodies to the Covid‑19 virus in the blood, to see if the person has been infected. Testing is not 100% effective because the antibodies take time to develop after infection, but the person is infectious before the antibodies develop.

Vaccine

Reduces the risk of catching Covid‑19, or if it is caught minimises the risk of serious consequences. Reduces but does not eliminate infectiousness. Several vaccines are available with varying effects and effectiveness. Saints on St Helena have been innoculated with the three leading vaccines to provide a broad spread of protection.

Variant

Covid‑19 is a virus and hence can mutate. Mutations are known as ‘Variants’ and designated with a Greek letter, e.g. Δ and Ο.

Ventilator

Medical equipment that keeps a patient breathing when their body is not strong enough to do so.

Read More

Below: Article: There’s really nothing to worry aboutArticle: The remote British island hoping to see more visitors

Article: There’s really nothing to worry about

By Liam Yon, SAMS, published in The Sentinel, 22nd July 2022{i}{2}

With the island scheduled to ‘open up’ on 8 August after SHG’s decision to remove quarantine restrictions and allow arrivals to enter the community without the need to isolate first, there is, as would be expected, mixed emotions among members of the community on-island.

For over two years St Helena has been kept safe from the destruction of Covid‑19. As the virus has evolved and circumstances have changed, St Helena has remained relatively as-is in terms of our way of life. This will all change come August when the island finally follows suit with the rest of the world and changes its stance from keeping Covid‑19 out to living with the virus here on-island.

There is undoubtedly some fear and uncertainty within the community with regards to the effect the virus will have on our people and the way we live - this is to be expected. While SHG have been regularly communicating with the community through the local media via radio interviews and publications in the papers, there are still some who have worries about allowing the virus to come to the island. That is despite the reiterating message from our Chief Medical Officer that the Omicron is not as deadly as some might believe and that the island is ready to take on Covid‑19. It is understandable that there are fears within the community as we enter the unknown.

In saying that, there are others, including St Helenians that have experienced life with Covid‑19. Just recently an outbreak of the virus plagued the Falkland Islands as they opened their borders to Covid‑19. Thankfully, and tellingly, despite most on the Falklands contracting the virus, both hospitalisations or deaths coming from Covid‑19. So, even though we might have concerns, there are Saints who have ‘been there and done that’ when it comes to Covid‑19.

Recently, local resident, Julie Fowler, reached out via Social Media to those on the Falklands who have had first-hand experience in dealing with the virus, to give their opinion on St Helena’s opening up, and to help alleviate some of the fears within the community by giving accounts of their experience with Covid‑19 and the effects it had on them and their families.

The post garnered quite the interest, with many Saints overseas weighing in with positive messages of their experiences with Covid‑19 and what to expect on St Helena.

Elaine Herne, a Saint on the Falklands, was first to respond saying that if you’re vaccinated, there’s really nothing to worry about. She explained that she too had an absolute melt down and was thinking the worse when Covid‑19 struck the Falklands, but said when she had it, it was like a rather normal cold. She added that she thinks St Helena will be the same. I can imagine you all are worried, it’s normal, weighed in Shara Robinson, another Saint residing on the Falklands with her family. But you all are vaccinated. There was a wave here and now there are approximately five active cases. Thankfully, everything was very well organised, there were no hospitalisations or Covid‑19-related deaths. Babies also had Covid‑19 who were not vaccinated, and they were all good.

In terms of what to when the island opens up in August, Shara said that people will be responsible, if queuing for food they can wear their mask and social distance. People here used Facebook and Messenger as a tool to communicate to inform of positive cases which I think was awesome. In my opinion there was a good community spirit and concern for each other. People were helping others if positive with food drop offs etc. Businesses home-delivered goods if needed. Companies supported working from home if they could.

In terms of her families personal experience in dealing with the virus she admitted that the initial reaction is worry and concern but reassured those following the post that having had Covid‑19, some flu symptoms were worst than what we had.

Another Saint, Delemarie Hopkins, commented that the percentage of the fully vaccinated population back home is very high, and there is no more elderly people back home than what there is on the Falklands. She said that the key is washing hands and wearing a face mask.

Delemarie recognised that numbers of Covid‑19 cases will be high during the initial introduction of the virus, but said she thinks it will drop within a few weeks and also alluded to the fact that on the Falklands when they opened up, there was no deaths or hospitalisation.

Delemarie also gave some advice to those on-island. The responsibility lies with the individuals. Yes, we all have love ones back home and it will be a worrying time for all but we should all have faith, trust the system, follow the advice from the health officials and have a sensible approach to everyday life.

Christopher Thomas also weighed in with a ‘short and sweet’ piece of advice, he said I really don’t think people should be worried. Be sensible, wear your mask, wash your hands regularly and, most importantly, get vaccinated.

To alleviate some fears in the many on St Helena who trouble with asthma, Roxanne Coleman, who is also asthmatic, said that first time dealing with Covid‑19 here and god it was very scary for me, but once you stick to the rules in terms of washing hands, sanitizing and wearing masks it becomes normal routine. Covid‑19 is now like everyday living, something we just have to live with. She also added that she has faith that Saints will get through this. Similarly, Vic Kellet, said that she got Covid‑19 within a week of my arrival in the UK, I’m asthmatic and I’ve been completely fine! Felt a bit tired and run down for a couple of days but that could easily have been the travel. It’s absolutely right that we open up now and, with some sensible precautions, we’ll be good.

A lot of fear in the community relates to our elderly and our care homes like the CCC and Cape Villa. Marilyn Ann who works in a UK Care Home provided her experience of Covid‑19 in relation to the care home where she works. There is no need to be alarmed with restrictions being lifted, she said. I work in a care home and we kept the virus out of our care home for over a year then as soon as restrictions were lifted, all our residents caught it but luckily no one died from it or were hospitalised from it. In terms of those with medical conditions which might make them more susceptible to getting ill from Covid‑19, Marilyn also said that the ones who have medical conditions that could be affected massively through their breathing were prescribed the anti-viral drug which helped a great deal. Councillor Rob Midwinter confirmed on the same thread the General Hospital has plenty stocks of the anti-viral drug which Marilyn referred to.

Referencing how some people have very mild symptoms, Patsy Williams, gave an account of her experience saying she doesn’t even know if she had Covid‑19 as she didn’t get particularly ill. We went down to camp, spent some days in Stanley shopping and walking around, never wore a mask and believe me everyone was behaving normal, I did not feel threatened by Covid‑19 at all, hence the need for me to worry was very low, she explained. After three weeks, I came back to the mountain, had some flu-like symptoms, thinking have I caught Covid‑19? naah don’t think so, no fever, carried on as normal, three days later and I’m back to normal...so if I did get Covid‑19, vaccines took care of it for me. Patricia Bennett then commented on her experience having contracted the virus after returning to the Falklands from the UK. Within a few weeks I had caught it, just had flu like symptoms but my chest was a bit chesty for the first three days and after that it was like having the flu, she explained. I guess because we had already received our vaccinations it didn’t do us much harm She then commented on how Covid‑19 is not even a thing that worries people anymore on the Falklands. It’s not even heard of here anymore, we are all just getting on with life. So are the residents in Stanley, where there are a lot of older people, everyone is going on as normal, we have to live with this now it’s just another epidemic like the flu.

Wendy Duncan, a Saint living in the UK, told how she, her husband, and her mum contracted the virus and were fine stating that we actually didn’t realise we had it. She also added some encouraging information for the many on-island who have heart conditions. Mum has a heart condition and she was absolutely fine, she smiled, as long you all are up to date with vaccinations, wear masks in close areas, wash hands etc… it will be fine.

Leon Williams, another Saint residing overseas, said that Of course it comes with risk and I understand the concern because of the older generation at home, but said that if vaccinated, I’m sure all will be fine.

Lastly, Susan Knipe, added her opinion. She feels that the spread in St Helena will be slower than the Falklands, as in St Helena people are spread out more, there are more schools and children won’t mix as much as they do here. She also said she thinks life will be pretty normal once the first wave is over, stating that once I had recovered from Covid‑19, I don’t wear a mask anymore. People will still be able to take part in the Carnival in October, take a look at the Falkland Islands Liberation Day which was just six weeks after we opened up.

The outpour of positive messages did not go unnoticed with many Saints following Julie Fowler’s post commenting on how useful and reassuring these messages were, especially considering they were coming from Saints.

Nicola Essex, fresh off her hosting this year’s Miss St Helena pageant, thanked Julie for starting the thread and all of the contributors. Your real life experiences are really calming and assuring and more relatable for me than the info that government releases (even though the info basically mirrors the same thing as this thread, there’s nothing quite like hearing it from people you know, I guess).

On 16th August the Government of St Helena announced that the island’s first case of Covid‑19 had been identified within the community, the person described as having mild symptoms, eight days after all Covid‑19 quarantine restrictions were lifted.

Article: The remote British island hoping to see more visitors

By Anne Cassidy, Business reporter, BBC News, 21st October 2021{2}

Alasdair and Gill Maclean say they felt a bit guilty having spent much of the past year happily living on a beautiful, tropical island, untouched by Covid‑19.

The English couple had been sailing around the world prior to the start of the pandemic, when they arrived at the British Overseas Territory island of St Helena, in the middle of the south Atlantic.

We had been due to leave 10 days later, and we ended up spending just over eight months, says Mr Maclean.

He adds that he and his wife were conflicted about updating friends back in the UK about their good fortune. How do you tell them you’re having a lovely time, freely going to restaurants, and partying when they’re all in lockdown?

Located some 1,200 miles (2,000 km) west of the African nation of Angola, and 2,500 miles east of Brazil, St Helena has a population of around 4,500 people, and is 47 sq miles (121 sq km) in size. To put that into context, it has about the same landmass as Jersey in the Channel Islands.

St Helena’s claim to fame since March 2020, is that it remains one of only a handful of places on Planet Earth to have not reported a single case of coronavirus.

This meant that when the UK government introduced its Covid traffic light system back in May, for countries (and overseas territories) that people could visit, St Helena was always one of the few on the green list - meaning you wouldn’t have to quarantine upon your return.

The island hopes that this spotlight has encouraged more potential tourists to visit.

Matthew Joshua, the St Helena Government’s head of visitor information services, says this already appears to be the case. We’re getting an increase in inquiries. It has put St Helena on the map.

But how exactly do you get to St Helena? Prior to the opening of the island’s airport in 2016 the only way to reach the island was by sea.

Then for the first year of the airport’s operation it was unusable due to safety concerns about high winds over the approach to the runway. This led to the facility, which cost the UK government £285m, being dubbed the world’s most useless airport.

However, after a number of trial flights, the airport was eventually passed as safe to use, with the first commercial flights starting in October, 2017.

Mr Joshua says the issue got unfair press coverage. We don’t have tropical storms like you do in the Caribbean, but there is wind.

Before the pandemic, St Helena was served by weekly flights from Johannesburg and Cape Town, but these routes are still on hold due to coronavirus restrictions in South Africa.

Instead, St Helena is currently served by Titan Airways charter flights every three weeks to and from London Stansted Airport.

For many people, St Helena is best-known as the place where French military and political leader Napoleon Bonaparte was exiled to, and where he died in 1821.

Visitors to the rocky, steep-sided island can see the house where he lived, which is now a museum. Other attractions include sea fishing, diving, hiking, the colonial era streets of the capital Jamestown, the warm weather, and exploring the fauna and flora - the island is home to more than 500 species of plants and animals not found anywhere else.

Back in 2019, St Helena had 5,135 overnight visitors, plus the odd day-visit by cruise ships. This number then fell to 2,071 in 2020, mostly before the end of March, and then down to 696 from January to July of this year.

Currently all visitors have to quarantine for 10 days.

The island has just two hotels, which remain closed. Sasha Ella, communications manager for the largest - Mantis St Helena Hotel - says that times have been tough, and they will only return to normal when the world puts coronavirus behind it.

It is our feeling that when access and frequency of the flights to the island, and relaxation to the quarantine restrictions, take place, only then will a positive effect be felt on the island, she says.

St Helena also has a number of private guest houses.

Another very remote, and Covid‑19-free British island that was permanently on the UK government’s green list, is South Georgia. Located in the south Atlantic, some 800 miles south east of the Falkland Islands, it is 1,362 sq miles (3,528 sq km) in size.

Only accessible by sea, the island has no permanent human population. Instead there are two government officers, and two dozen or so staff from the British Antarctic Survey, the UK’s polar research institute.

Like St Helena, South Georgia is now waiting for tourists to return. Prior to the pandemic, it would be visited by cruise ships going to and from the coast of Antarctica.

In the summer of 2019/2020 (its summer is during winter in the UK) it had 12,568 visitors, but this fell to just two people in 2020/21.

In a normal year, tourism accounts for around 20% of our income, says Ross James, visitor management & bio-security officer for the Government of South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands.

The island has no overnight accommodation available for visitors, who instead only stay for a few hours, and have to follow strict rules during their visit designed to safeguard the natural habitat.

Prior to their arrival people are also encouraged to watch a video guide to the region, narrated by David Attenborough.

All cruise firms that travel to South Georgia are members of the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators. Amanda Lynnes, the organisation’s director of environment & science coordination, has this advice for visitors: Use your experience to be an ambassador for South Georgia’s continued protection.

South Georgia has dramatic snow-topped mountains for visitors to see amid cold temperatures - even in its summer months it struggles to go above 6C.

By contrast, St Helena enjoys highs of 34C. Yet Mr Maclean says it is not just the pleasant weather that makes it special. St Helena is up there as one of the friendliest communities in the world, he says.

LOL

Credits:
{a} The BBC.{b} US President Donald Trump, 10th February 2020#{c} St Helena Airport Limited{d} US President Donald Trump, 23rd June 2020#{e} Anon{f} Government of St Helena{g} US President Donald Trump, 14th October 2020#{h} US President Donald Trump, 23rd December 2020#{i} Copyright © South Atlantic Media Services Ltd (SAMS), used with permission{2}.

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Footnotes:
{1} Dressed in his uniform as a retired RAF Officer.{2} @@RepDis@@

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