Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands said yesterday that The Bahamas is beginning to take precautions in light of the spread of the new coronavirus that has caused over a dozen deaths around the world so far.
Sands said the virus could become a pandemic.
He said that while there is no current need for changes at The Bahamas’ borders, the Ministry of Health is in the process of ensuring it can test for the virus.
“We have been in constant touch with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) at a very high level,” Sands said at a press conference yesterday.
“Dr. Tedros [Adhanom Ghebreyesus], who is the director general of the WHO, who was here in The Bahamas, has convened a meeting to discuss any international approaches to the tackling and the management of this particular threat.
“It has the potential to become a pandemic.
“At this time, as of 20 minutes ago when we got updated, there are no recommendations for any changes at our border, any restrictions to travel. And this is coming directly from PAHO and WHO.”
Sands added, “In the meantime, what we have done is begun the process of ramping up our ability to test for this virus. There was a report in this morning’s paper that we have the ability to. We are in the process of getting the ability to. I want to clarify that. We have alerted our stakeholders. We have been in discussions with our major port, LPIA, in order to have them begin to consider what alternative approaches we need to take.”
The virus, 2019-nCoV, first appeared in the city of Wuhan, China last month.
Since then, there have been reported cases in other parts of China, Hong Kong, Japan, Thailand, South Korea and the United States. At least 17 have been confirmed to have died from the virus so far, according to NPR.
The virus can cause a cough, difficulty breathing, fever and, in some cases, pneumonia, which cannot be treated with antibiotics.
Though the situation is being monitored, Sands noted that the virus is far from being the largest threat to public health in the country.
“I feel compelled to say to everybody here that while this is something that we are paying very close attention to, I want people to remember you had 130,000 people die from measles last year,” he said.
“You had almost half a million people die from flu last year.
“[We]’ve had [nine] deaths from this virus. What is the message? Go out and get your flu shot. If your children or you are not immunized against measles, go and get immunized. Because you are far more likely to die from measles or flu than you are from this virus.”