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CMO admits isolating parts of island would be difficult

Although the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in The Bahamas is over 3,000 with more than half of those cases active, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Pearl McMillan said yesterday that lockdowns are not sustainable, and acknowledged that isolating certain areas of New Providence, as foreshadowed last week by the prime minister, would be challenging.

At a Ministry of Health press conference, McMillan also provided a graph that showed COVID-19 cases are spread out across the island. New Providence has recorded a total 2,013 cases — the vast majority after the reopening of the borders on July 1.

Asked about the move away from lockdowns, as indicated by the prime minister last week, she said, “Whether or not we opened everything or just a few things, certainly what we require to happen as we move forward is that we follow the necessary public health measures in order to decrease the likelihood of spread.

“I think we often say when we are asked a question like that, that public health must always take into consideration other things that are happening in a particular environment and there has to be a balance. We would have had a number of lockdowns. We had curfews. We had a number of very restrictive to minimally restrictive measures put in place early on and we did fairly well.

“Doing those things indefinitely is not sustainable, so we have to balance the public health measures alongside the economic and the social measures, and the social challenges that come along with the lockdowns.”

McMillan’s view aligned with the view expressed by the competent authority, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis, when he spoke with reporters last week.

“I think with the excellent job that the health professionals are doing, you must establish a balance between health and the economy,” Minnis said.

“They are able and were able to isolate and determine the areas that are having an increase in numbers and if we can isolate and determine those areas, then we can zoom in on those particular areas, so as not to impact the entire Bahamas.”

Yesterday, McMillan was asked about isolating areas of the island given that cases are spread across New Providence.

“Certainly, COVID cases across the island is pretty much where we are,” she said.

“However, as we monitor the new cases, their location, where they are, if it is there is a particular surge in a particular side of the island or among a particular community, of course consideration can be given to a lockdown of that particular area.

 “It’s not an easy thing to do, but certainly I know of a number of countries in the CARICOM region who would have done it and they had some success with it. But we will continue to monitor the cases and where they are happening and make recommendations along the lines of public health measures, be they very restrictive or less measures, but I think the public needs to begin to get in the mode of COVID-19 being with [us].”

McMillan again urged the public to strictly follow health protocols to fight the virus.

Minnis said on Thursday that irresponsible Bahamians are causing the continued surge being experienced.

“We have found instances of individuals who are positive or they were placed in quarantine, they would subsequently turn off the geofencing monitor and subsequently just go about their own business,” he said.

“That’s irresponsible and what they’re doing is placing not only themselves in danger, but they’re placing the entire future of The Bahamas and their families, their kids [in danger].”

After nearly six months of strict measures to fight COVID-19, the prime minister had been under intense pressure from some sectors to ease restrictions on business operations, and other restrictions on civil liberties.

Minnis has said he will be guided by health officials on whether to extend the state of emergency, which currently expires September 30.

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Candia Dames

Candia Dames is the executive editor of The Nassau Guardian.

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