Marshall Islands patient tests negative for coronavirus

9:30 am on 9 March 2020

By Giff Johnson

Laboratory tests for a suspected Covid-19 coronavirus case in the Marshall Islands have returned negative.

Patient samples at a safety workbench for coronavirus testing.

Photo: AFP

"The results from the Hawaii State Lab were released...and the virus that causes Covid-19 was not detected," said Health Secretary Jack Niedenthal.

The patient, a 66-year-old man, had been identified as a "patient under investigation" on Thursday after exhibiting some of the symptoms of the virus.

"This means there are currently no confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the Republic of the Marshall Islands," said Mr Niedenthal.

The negative results for the Majuro patient follow similarly negative results for suspected Covid-19 patients in Palau and Saipan in the Northern Mariana Islands.

Palau President Tommy Remengesau, Jr announced the negative results for the visiting American female patient in Palau, while the Commonwealth Healthcare Corporation announced the negative test results for a patient on Saipan.

Although the test of the Majuro patient came back negative, Mr Niedenthal advised the public "to remain alert and continue to practice good hygiene to prevent contracting the virus.

"As the symptoms of Covid-19 are very similar to other respiratory illnesses (including colds and influenza) it is expected that with time the Ministry will identify more persons requiring investigation for Covid-19," Mr Niedenthal said.

"This should not alarm the public as it is an indication of the high level of alertness and precautionary approach the Ministry is taking in response to this global outbreak."

Earlier on Saturday, the Marshall Islands added Germany to its travel ban, which now contains eight nations from which travellers are banned from entering the Marshall Islands.

The other countries and areas are China, Hong Kong, Macau, Japan, S. Korea, Italy and Iran. All have experienced serious outbreaks of Covid-19.

Mr Niedenthal urged "people not to travel to the Marshall Islands at this time."

This file photo from late 2019 shows downtown Majuro, the destination for most Marshall Islanders deported from the United States. An average of 31 Marshallese have been deported annually during the past four years.

A Majuro street. Photo: Hilary Hosia

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