According to WHO, the number of new coronavirus infections has already exceeded six thousand. It is also known that Coronavirus has already been detected in Germany. Can it reach Poland? The Minister of Health admitted that it was only a matter of time.
Wednesday, 18:45. A plane from Beijing lands at Okęcie. Chopin Airport handles LOT flights from the capital of China every day, and on Monday, Wednesday and Friday also Air China connections. Up to 300 passengers can travel on each of these aircraft. These long distant flights make it the easiest way to spread in to new environment for microorganisms. Although the main focus of 2019-nCov is in Wuhan, which is more than a thousand kilometers away from Beijing, there have been disturbing public reports from the Chinese capital about subsequent illnesses caused by the dangerous coronavirus, in many cases being fatal.
Special airport security procedures
LOT Polish Airlines, in contrast to, among others British Airways, Lufthansa or United Airlines have not yet announced suspension of connections to China, but passengers who booked tickets before 27th January are offered a refund or rescheduling.
International airports have implemented special security procedures. At some airports, special scanners are used to measure the body temperature of all passengers crossing the country’s border. People flying from Beijing also undergo similar tests.
European airports have not yet decided to introduce similar procedures. Currently, the responsibility for noticing disturbing symptoms lies primarily with the crew that performs initial verification of passengers’ health during the flight. Such procedures also apply at the Warsaw airport.
– We are constantly in touch with Polish and European sanitation services and we act as needed based on current guidelines – assures Piotr Rudzki, spokesman for the Chopin airport. Cabin crew of aircraft arriving in the capital from Southeast Asia were obliged to pay special attention to the health of passengers.
The services at the Warsaw airport are always on standby. There is a round-the-clock outpatient clinic at the airport, which is responsible all the crew or airport staff notice any symptoms that may indicate a serious infection . Passengers themselves can also register there. – People traveling from Southeast Asia who have disease symptoms are examined directly at the airport – explains Rudzki. – Any passenger who notices disturbing symptoms should report it to the cabin crew. Then we will be prepared to transport such a person to the infirmary immediately after landing.
The outpatient team consists of thirty people – doctors, paramedics and nurses – specially trained to work at an international airport. They are people experienced in detecting infectious diseases, they know what to look for and how to act in case of suspicion 2019-nCov.
Detection of the virus, however, hinders the fact that its incubation period can be up to 14 days . This is the time when the symptoms of the disease remain invisible, but the infected person can already transmit the virus to others. For this reason, all passengers arriving to Warsaw from China – not only by direct connections – must complete location cards , in which they provide their contact details – primarily the address of stay for the next two weeks.
However, as examples from other countries show, implementing airport security procedures may not be enough. So far, no case of coronavirus infection have been confirmed in Poland, but Minister of Health Łukasz Szumowski admitted on Wednesday that the appearance is only a matter of time. – The hypothetical scenario will be such that at some point one of these patients who has suspicions will be confirmed.
NIK audits in hospitals, public health facilities, seaports and airports
How Poland is prepared to act in the face of a real epidemic threat will be checked by the Supreme Audit Office, which announced on Wednesday that an urgent exploratory audit would be carried out. For the time being, the Warsaw authorities are not planning to appoint a municipal crisis staff, and Konstanty Radziwiłł assured at a press conference that there is no reason to panic . – According to the GIS announcements, there is currently no situation in Poland that we should worry about. Of course, the case is being monitored. The health service in Mazovia is prepared for possible actions – he reassured.
Evacuation of Poles from Wuhan
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs monitors the situation in Wuhan, where there are still 27 Poles . Polish consular services are in talks with representatives of other EU countries to organize a trip for all interested EU citizens.
Three Poles, students of Rzeszów University of Technology, managed to leave Wuhan just before it closed. Through Beijing they reached Dubai and then to Warsaw. Their health status was verified when they boarded the plane in the United Arab Emirates and when they landed at Chopin Airport 25th January. As reported by the Chief Sanitary Inspectorate, students were referred for observation to the Provincial Infectious Hospital in Wola, but as it was emphasized, these were only prudential measures. Two of them have already left the hospital, the third remains under observation – according to a spokesman for GIS, unrelated to coronavirus. One student talked about being in solitary confinement in a video posted on YouTube.
Recommendations – Coronavirus
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs advises against any travel to the Hubei province and extreme caution in other regions of China. Those who have been in the region of Southeast Asia in the last two weeks and have experienced symptoms such as fever above 38 degrees, coughing and dyspnoea should immediately report to the nearest infectious hospital.
As part of basic infection prevention, it is recommended:
- frequent hand washing
- covering your mouth when sneezing or coughing
- avoiding close contact with sick people
- vaccination against influenza