While noting that the impact of COVID-19 might have had an economic impact on the country, Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands is urging Bahamians to remain cautious of the illness.
He also noted that four more individuals have been quarantined upon their recent return to the country as his ministry continues its surveillance activity on those traveling from “impacted areas”; however, he stressed that “we still have no reported, suspected or confirmed cases in The Bahamas”.
“We are watching closely the developments around the world…and we are all very concerned still, and very vigilant, but we believe that The Bahamas has advanced its preparation quite significantly and we just hope and pray that we don’t have a case,” Sands told The Nassau Guardian on Monday.
“But if we do, we will deal with it.”
He added, “Certainly we want to do everything possible to keep The Bahamas and Bahamians safe and free of this disease, but we also want to ensure that the economy of the world, and in particular the economy of The Bahamas, doesn’t go into a slump as a result of this thing.
“So, we’ve got to be very, very cautious.”
Sands noted that the U.S. stock market plummeted on Monday due to the impact of coronavirus, and also highlighted that cruise liners have claimed to experience a decrease in bookings because of the disease.
“I know that the cruise lines have seen, based on their self-reporting, a significant drop-off in bookings around the world in the cruise industry,” Sands said.
“As the majority of tourists come to The Bahamas on cruise ships, it’s too early to tell, but I suspect that there probably has been some impact.
“We get probably 1,000 visitors a year from China, and if you amortize that over a month, two months, it doesn’t sound like a lot of people, but there’s probably been some impact in terms of certainly travel from the Far East.
“So, we don’t know yet what the impact on The Bahamas will be.”
The World Health Organization (WHO) officially declared the virus – which originated in Wuhan, China, in December – a global health emergency on January 30.
Later that same day, the government of The Bahamas implemented a travel ban on all non-residents of The Bahamas who have visited China in the prior 20 days.
Bahamian residents are allowed to return but will have to be quarantined for 14 days.
However, Sands said that the global response to COVID-19 has been receiving may have been disproportionate as there are more lethal diseases impacting the world such as measles and influenza (the flu).
As a basis of comparison, Sands said that 80 percent of those infected with COVID-19 only have “a mild respiratory illness”; 15 percent become seriously ill; and five percent critically ill, but most people recover.
“It’s an issue of perspective, and while I get it, people are genuinely concerned and I think people should be concerned; even the stock market crashed today given the impact of the coronavirus on the world, I’m not sure that the response is proportionate to the threat,” Sands said.
He added, “I think we should all be concerned because, in the era of globalization we are all very much connected.
“…[W]e all need to pay very close attention and understand that if we work together we can mitigate the risk for everybody. Isolation isn’t going to solve the problem.”