COVID protocols under review

As cases soar, Darville suggests changes might be on the way 

The Ministry of Health is considering whether to impose additional restrictions as The Bahamas struggles with an exponential increase in COVID-19 cases, Minister of Health Dr. Michael Darville said yesterday.

“We are very concerned with the numbers,” Darville said.

“As a matter of fact, our team at the Ministry of Health is reviewing some of the protocols. The Bahamian people can rest assured that the circumstances at the hospital, we are definitely working diligently to ensure that patients who do come in — whether it’s for COVID or for other reasons — are able to get services.

“We’re doing the necessary assessments to bring in the necessary staff to keep the service up and going.”

When asked if the public can expect more restrictions, Darville replied, “We’re looking at [that]. What we’re concerned about, like every country in the world, is when we begin to see signs of exponential growth or spread. We have to look at the protocols as it relates to people coming in close proximity to one another and make some adjustments.”

Last month, the government tightened restrictions related to social gatherings and entry to The Bahamas.

Outdoor social gatherings were limited to 30 individuals and indoor social gatherings were limited to 20 individuals. 

Prime Minister Philip Brave Davis announced that only negative results from RT-PCR COVID-19 tests would be accepted for individuals entering The Bahamas as of January 7.

However, that policy was reversed this month because many travelers have been having a hard time getting PCR tests in the United States, Darville said.

Negative test results — PCR for unvaccinated individuals and antigen or PCR for vaccinated individuals — must be no older than three days for individuals traveling to The Bahamas. The window for testing was previously five days.

Darville said yesterday, the government is satisfied with its current travel protocols.

“When you look at the Family Islands, you will see that the incidents of high cases are very low and we’re looking at places like Eleuthera, possibly Exuma, Grand Bahama and then, of course, the epicenter here in New Providence,” he said.

“And so, we do have tight protocols for individuals leaving New Providence, a high viral load area, and going into our Family Islands where testing is absolutely essential to pick up those cases.

“But even with that, you’re going to find that you’re still going to have some cases that are going to be breakthroughs because early signs of infection, you don’t pick it up and in a day or so, on arrival to the Family Islands, you can see that they can surge, seroconvert and become positive.”

As of January 9, The Bahamas confirmed 28,968 COVID-19 cases.

More than 3,600 new cases were confirmed in the first nine days of the new year. Health officials believe this increase in cases is linked to the highly transmissible Omicron variant.

Over 800 new cases were confirmed on Friday alone.

Darville described Friday’s cases as “great concern to us”.

The Bahamas has also experienced an increase in hospitalizations.

In the first nine days of the year, hospitalizations jumped from 36 to 110.

The recent increase in cases is The Bahamas’ worst so far but not as deadly as the one experienced between August and October 2021.

Darville and other health officials traveled to Cuba over the weekend to recruit additional healthcare workers.

He called the trip successful. 

“At that particular facility where we were doing the necessary interviewing with the nursing staff, we were able to second 50 nurses. Hopefully, they will be here this week,” Darville said.

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Jasper Ward

Jasper Ward started at The Nassau Guardian in September 2018. Ward covers a wide range of national and social issues. Education: Goldsmiths, University of London, MA in Race, Media and Social Justice

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