Frequently Asked Questions
This information was last updated on 16 November 2020.
COVID-19 is an illness caused by the new novel coronavirus strain, SARS-CoV-2.
The symptoms of COVID-19 are:
- a new or worsening cough
- a high temperature (at least 38°C)
- shortness of breath
- sore throat
- sneezing and runny nose
- temporary loss of taste smell
But these symptoms do not necessarily mean you have the illness.
The symptoms are similar to other illnesses that are much more common, such as cold and flu.
The Falkland Islands is able to respond should a case of coronavirus be suspected.
The Government has been reviewing and updating its infectious diseases planning.
KEMH Hospital has an isolation facility and is capable of treating patients with severe complications from COVID-19.
The hospital also has plans in place for isolating a larger area should it have admissions of any sort requiring such facilities, along with all the necessary clothing, and control of infection procedures.
Because it's a new illness, we do not know exactly how COVID-19 spreads from person to person.
Similar viruses are spread in cough droplets.
It's very unlikely it can be spread through things like packages or food. It is thought that viruses like COVID-19 can live outside the body for up to 72 hours.
There are things you can do to help stop viruses like COVID-19 spreading.
- cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze
- put used tissues in the bin immediately
- wash your hands with soap and water often – use hand sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available
- try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell
Staff at KEMH will assess if you need medical help and advise you what to do. Do NOT go to the hospital but ring 28000 first if:
- you think you might have COVID-19
- you've recently been to a country or area with a high risk of COVID-19
- you've been in close contact with someone with COVID-19
Updated 10 June 2020
Executive Council has extended restrictions on non-essential visitors to the Falkland Islands for a further 30 days from today but with some changes to those considered for entry. Since 7 April 2020, visitor permits have not been granted for non-essential visitors. The purpose of the restrictions is to reduce any unnecessary additional burden on KEMH and to minimise additional risk of COVID-19.
Under this policy, the following have been considered essential visitors:
- Business visitors required for essential maintenance on equipment, which cannot continue to be operated without the maintenance e.g. engineers visiting KEMH
- Crew from vessels associated with the Falkland Islands and the Government of South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands for the purpose of exchange and/or repatriation
- Scientific and other maritime observers associated with the Falkland Islands and SGSSI for exchange and/or repatriation purposes
- Individuals already present in the Falkland Islands when LATAM flights were suspended
- Members of the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) and associated organisations
Executive Council has agreed that the Principal Immigration Officer be authorised to consider the following as additions to the essential visitor list:
- Family members
- Business visitors for the purpose of delivering projects within the Islands Plan
- Other business visitors
- Crew from vessels with no connection to the Falkland Islands for the purpose of exchange and/or repatriation where onward travel arrangements are confirmed and in place
- Conservation and environmental specialists
All arrivals to the Falkland Islands continue to be required to quarantine for 14 days on arrival, unless they remained at sea prior to arrival for a period of at least this length of time, have no signs of ill health, and the vessel they arrive on has completed the required Maritime Health Declarations prior to arrival.
The policy will be reviewed again on 8 July 2020.
- Please note that all civilian arrivals to the Falkland Islands are required to quarantine for 14 days on arrival. BFSAI personnel are also quarantining, although in some cases this is done in the UK under strict MOD control, prior to departing for the Falkland Islands.
When health authorities are aware of a possible case, or cases, there is a clear process that is followed.
If it is thought possible or probable that the person or persons may have been exposed to COVID-19, testing would be carried out, while the person or persons would be asked to self-isolate. Depending upon what symptoms the individual has, their household may also be asked to self-isolate.
As soon as someone is confirmed as having Covid-19 then contact tracing would begin and a wider group of people would be advised to self-isolate and come forward for testing.
As of 16 MAY 2020, KEMH can test for COVID-19.
The KEMH laboratory team have now trained on the use of a PCR analyser.
Comparison testing of samples has been completed showing that results achieved in the KEMH are equivalent to those achieved in the UK, meaning the test method has been successfully validated for use.
We are now undertaking on-Island testing of symptomatic people who might be carrying the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes the disease COVID-19.
Results from swabs will be available within 2 working days. In situations where it is important to get a result quicker then we can now undertake GeneXpert testing on small numbers which gives a result within a few hours.
Having this platform up and running means that people who are symptomatic with a flu-like illness, and who have been asked to isolate, will be able to be swabbed and a result quickly known.
If it is not positive for COVID-19, once the individual has been completely well for 24 hours, they will be free to return to work/school.
This also means that household members of symptomatic individuals (who are still expected to isolate along side their unwell family/bubble member) will be able to be released back to work/school as soon as a negative result is returned.
It is expected that the self-isolation times in these cases will be greatly reduced with the opportunity for on-Island testing.
On occasions, if a person remains symptomatic with a flu-like illness, a second swab is needed and this too can be undertaken in the KEMH lab.
In addition to this, surveillance swabbing is as of early June being undertaken across Stanley and MPC and the swabs analysed in the KEMH.
Prior to this more than 400 tests were able to be processed in the UK.
If there's a chance you could have COVID-19, you may be asked to stay away from other people (self-isolate).
This means you should:
stay at home not go to work, school or public places not use public transport or taxis ask friends, family members or delivery services to do errands for you. If you are unable to access such support, then you should advise health authorities so that more assistance can be organised. try to avoid visitors to your home – it's OK for friends, family or delivery drivers to drop off food
You may need to do this for up to 14 days to help reduce the possible spread of infection.
If you have been advised by KEMH to quarantine you should stay at home and not go outside for exercise until your quarantine period is over.
If you are symptomatic you should not leave your home for any reason, apart from brief exercise alone and maintaining strict social distancing from others.
Anyone can go for a drive, unless you are within 14 days of arriving in the Falkland Islands from overseas. If you have symptoms and have been advised to self-isolate then ideally you should be remaining at home as far as possible, and certainly not sharing a car as you should be aiming to socially distance from others so as to avoid them contracting your symptoms, whether or not you have COVID-19 or another viral infection.
Quarantine in the Falkland Islands lasts 14 days from arrival – please click here for more information.
There is currently no specific treatment for COVID-19.
Antibiotics do not help, as they do not work against viruses.
Treatment aims to relieve the symptoms while your body fights the illness.
You'll need to stay in isolation away from other people until you've recovered.
Health authorities will stay in contact, monitoring your care. They will make any decisions regarding whether you might need a higher level of care in hospital.
People of all ages can get COVID-19. Older people, and people with pre-existing medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease) are more likely to become severely ill with the virus.
Everyone should follow simple measures to stop viruses like COVID-19 spreading, for example by washing their hands often with soap and water.
There is currently no evidence that you can catch COVID-19 from parcels and letters. Viruses like COVID-19 cannot live for very long outside the body.
There is currently no evidence that you can catch COVID-19 from food. But it's always a good idea to wash your hands in soap and water or use hand sanitiser gel before you prepare or eat food.
Facemasks play an important role in clinical settings, such as hospitals. While there is little conclusive evidence of benefit from their use outside of these settings, their use may be advised for you by KEMH or as part of your work if deemed appropriate. The Government (on 22 May) has published guidance for non-health workers on PPE use that outlines some other occasions where a face mask is appropriate. Note that FIGAS now requires face masks to be worn by passengers.
Remember that you should practise social distancing when out, and remember always to wash your hands thoroughly after returning home. This will protect you much more than wearing a facemask.
As of the 15 June 2020 in line with the UK Government’s guidance, passengers traveling on the South Atlantic Airbridge will be required to wear a face covering.
All passengers aged 11 years or above should be in possession of a face covering when they report to the Air Terminal and must wear the face covering whilst on the aircraft.
You will be asked to prove you have a face covering at check-in and may be prevented from accessing the South Atlantic Airbridge, if you do not have a face covering.
Not necessarily, regular handwashing offers more protection than wearing gloves.
If gloves are worn, they can become contaminated by touching COVID-19 if it is on a surface you touch. So if they are disposable, take them off before re-entering your home and dispose of inside. Then wash your hands thoroughly. Non-disposable gloves for the same reasons need to be thoroughly washed after use.
There is currently no vaccine for the COVID-19. The virus is so new and different that it needs its own vaccine.
Simple hygiene measures like washing your hands with soap and water often, and avoiding people who are unwell, can help stop viruses like COVID-19 spreading.
As of 19th June, unless you have symptoms or are in quarantine due to recently arriving from overseas, you can go out and about into public places. However please remember to maintain social distancing as far as possible from those outside your bubbles, and continue good hand hygiene.
Surveillance swabbing is an important tool to try and search out the SARS-CoV-2 virus, particularly in those individuals who might be asymptomatic.
That means they may not show any flu-like symptoms but may still be shedding the virus.
There is always the possibility of asymptomatic spread, even with the 14-day quarantine that is in place.
Surveillance swabbing gives us an extra degree of reassurance around COVID-19 in that health authorities would expect to find any cases that are spreading silently in the community and detect this spread faster.
That then allows a quicker response by getting people to self-isolate, while authorities trace who they might have been close contact with.
Initially surveillance swabbing has been targeted at healthcare workers, but from early June has been rolled out to include people who undertake work where they naturally come into contact with lots of people, e.g. teachers, shop assistants, Customs and Immigration officials etc.
As well, a test may be offered to members of the public when they come to KEMH for a medical appointment.
Surveillance swabbing is being undertaken at MPC too.
It is completely voluntary to participate in surveillance swabbing and people can choose not to do so. Some people might find having a swab taken uncomfortable but it has no lasting negative effects. It is an important part of our public health response to try and get a wide cross section of the population so we hope that the public will engage with the process.
KEMH as of late June is starting antibody tests.
A positive antibody test simply shows that you have been exposed to SARS-CoV-2, the virus which causes Covid-19. Scientists are still working out what this means in terms of any possible immunity against further infection.
Once antibody testing is fully available we will be deliberately selecting individuals, such as healthcare workers, to test initially. However there will be an opportunity for people to volunteer for this moving forwards.
Further details as to how this will work will be widely publicised so please do NOT contact KEMH requesting antibody testing at this stage unless invited to.