Days after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the ongoing Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo a “public health emergency of international concern”, Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands advised that The Bahamas is updating its national readiness and response plans.
The epidemic has killed over 1,700 people since it emerged in the central African country last year. The WHO declaration followed news that the outbreak had spread to Goma, a city of two million people, which borders Rwanda.
“Subsequent to the WHO declaration on Ebola virus disease, The Bahamas has actively engaged all stakeholders to update our national readiness and response plans. We are updating the existing plan (initially drafted in 2014),” Sands said in a Facebook post.
“Once completed, the revised plan will be widely circulated to all stakeholders and made available to the general public.”
In an interview with The Nassau Guardian, Sands said, “Ultimately, what we are seeking to do is to update the 2014 plan, to improve on it, but then most importantly to make sure that people understand it, can touch it and feel it and are prepared to act in the highly unlikely event that an Ebola threat makes its way either to the region or to The Bahamas.”
He said the government is discussing the issue with stakeholders in clinics, hospitals, customs, immigration, ports of entry and the tourism sector.
“There has been and will continue to be widespread consultation and discussion with stakeholders,” he said.
“We’ve had at least three meetings already. We have another one set up for Wednesday.”
Sands said that while he agrees with WHO’s decision to declare the outbreak a public emergency, he believes the chances of the virus reaching the region are very unlikely.
“There are multiple points that this could be stopped,” he said.
“For instance, there are no direct flights from Central Africa to The Bahamas. So somebody would have to penetrate through typically Europe…and then they could come direct on British Airways, but typically they would come through the United States or some other port, and all of these ports have checks and balances.”