Potentially 60 percent of people in The Bahamas will be exposed to COVID-19, according to Director of the National HIV/AIDS & Infectious Diseases Programme at the Ministry of Health Dr. Nikkiah Forbes.
She noted, however, that the government cannot risk letting people be exposed to the virus to build up an immunity against it because the chances are too high that many people could die as a result.
“We know that with this infection, potentially 60 percent of the population will be exposed,” said Forbes while appearing as a guest on the talk show “Patio Politics” with Howard Grant, which aired yesterday.
“So, there is a school of thought – I don’t agree with it – that you could just go on with business as usual and that people will be exposed and then they will become immune.
“And that what you could do is that maybe you could keep the sickest, most immunocompromised, the people with medical problems, away.
“I think that it’s a bad idea, and more than that I can share with you that there are some other countries, developed countries, that thought they would do this herd immunity approach, against good medical advice from their technical advisers like doctors, like me.
“[T]hey just continued business as usual and they are currently past their capacity.
“They’re in the surge and they can’t manage and people are dying…
“We didn’t do that… From the minute we saw the first case, we put into place measures.
“Remember, schools closed that day and we had already been planning and giving messages of how to prevent this.
“So I don’t think that herd immunity is something you want to do right now with this virus because the mortality is high.
“I think mitigation and a good action plan is what you have to do for the best interest of your citizens and everybody concerned.”
On Wednesday, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis announced The Bahamas is “in a surge” of COVID-19 cases.
There are 29 confirmed cases in the country and five related deaths, meaning about 18 percent of patients who tested positive have died.
Since the country recorded its first confirmed case on March 15, Minnis enacted emergency lockdown measures in an unprecedented attempt to contain the highly contagious virus.
However, Forbes said such lockdown measures alone are not the “full solution” for stopping the spread of COVID-19, as it can only slow the rate of infection.
She stressed that more needs to be done on an individual level from Bahamians as well in order to help fight the disease.
“When we talk about flattening the curve…we mean that we put in place measures to try and reduce and slow down infections being transmitted from person to person,” Forbes said.
“It would be great if we could stop it.”
She added, “It doesn’t totally stop it because some people have already had the infection and they may have spread it to other people or there may still be slow spread to other people.”
Forbes noted that despite the measures, “people will get sick anyway sometimes because they’re going to mix with people”.
“When we have these restriction of movement measures…that helps, but it’s not the full solution,” Forbes said.
“It’s not the magic bullet to stop this. We still have to do all what we’re supposed to be doing.
“On a personal level, you have to follow that advice. If you’re at your house and you’re inviting people over, having barbecues and so on, it’s going to cause problems.”