The Bahamas experienced an increase in COVID-19 cases for four consecutive weeks, according to health officials, who yesterday expressed concern with “a marked increase” in cases on New Providence, Grand Bahama, Eleuthera and Abaco.
Chief Medical Officer Dr. Pearl McMillan noted that 146 new cases were reported in The Bahamas last week.
“Though this appears to be a reduction from the week prior, it should be noted that last week coincided with Easter when many of the testing centers either closed or had reduced operating hours and/or many were focused on other activities surrounding the holidays,” McMillan said during a Ministry of Health press conference.
She added, “The average number of new cases each week was steadily rising from February 2021, which corresponds with epi (epidemiological) week eight. The week of March 28, which was epi week 13, also appears to have decreased in the average number of new cases, but we caution again because this is the week that I referred to earlier that coincided with Easter.”
As of April 6, there were 9,296 cases recorded in The Bahamas.
The majority of those cases were reported on New Providence, which has 6,489 overall cases and 117 active cases, and Grand Bahama, which has 1,490 cases and 102 active cases.
McMillan noted that there continues to be “an upward trend” in new cases on New Providence.
Since the start of the pandemic, Eleuthera reported 201 cases.
Ninety-two of those cases were reported in North Eleuthera, 67 in South Eleuthera and 42 in Central Eleuthera.
McMillan noted that there was a marked increase in cases on the island.
She said they were “primarily imported or import-related”.
“Between January 2021 and April 2021, which is the latest data that we would’ve been monitoring, we see that North Eleuthera was responsible for about 81 percent of the cases on Eleuthera,” McMillan said.
“This coincided with the spike that we saw on that island.”
Minister of Health Renward Wells said the ministry dispatched a health team to the island last week to assess and intensify contract tracing activities.
He said special emphasis was placed on Harbour Island.
“The team completed the following tasks: determined the number of COVID-19 positive cases; assessed whether there was a need for widespread testing; evaluated the manpower on the ground to enforce policies and procedures; commenced the rollout of COVID-19 vaccinations; made recommendations for improvements, which include the acquisition of additional staff to augment the existing staff complement on the island and to encourage residents and visitors to adhere to the public health guidelines,” Wells said.
“The health team trained personnel on updated protocols for quarantine and isolation. Due to limited staff, difficulties were noted in conducting complete contact tracing activities and enforcing quarantine and isolation measures on Harbour Island.”
Abaco recorded 315 cases since the start of the pandemic.
Thirty-two of those cases are active.
McMillan said Abaco is showing “a consistent downward trend”.
She described that trend as “positive”.
“There is a downward trend but we also did say that we have concerns in other parts of Abaco that we are monitoring as it relates to clusters of cases that [are] ongoing,” McMillan said.
“So, the downward trend is good and we will continue to monitor the trend but we have to take into consideration other things that are going on.
“And to your question regarding clusters on Abaco, we are seeing clusters in different spaces.”
McMillan noted that health officials are observing clusters that are linked to Guana Cay.
Dr. Gillian Bartlett, who heads the COVID-19 task force for the Family Islands, said there were six recent cases on Guana Cay.
She said those cases were linked to a construction company.
“We are watching those cases,” Bartlett said.
“Those persons would have traveled into New Providence and subsequently been tested here and so they are now currently in New Providence, but then you have rapid travel between, as you know, New Providence and Abaco, so right now that’s a concern. We will keep that consideration, under careful watch.”
Bartlett noted that individuals on the island are moving from settlement to settlement.
“Just recently, we have seen some cases in South Abaco as well as a case in Moore’s Island as a result of the movement and hence why we keep saying about the public health measures because as you move, then you transmit the virus,” she said.
“Right now, a concern also on Abaco is what’s going on in Green Turtle Cay with an increase in the rapid antigen — these would be persons that would come, travel and on the fifth day be tested by the rapid antigen test – and these tests are coming back positive.
“Subsequently, their contacts are being quarantined and we continue, of course, to monitor them and the situation as we speak. So, Abaco remains still a concern at this point.”
McMillan noted that Exuma has been “doing well”.
Despite this, she said health officials did have “a reason to raise a flag of concern”.
Bartlett added, “Exuma’s been doing extremely well up until recently when we had an increase in cases, in about six cases in particular – four of which came from one family – and those were the persons that traveled internationally from Florida into Exuma.”
She said the four individuals returned to The Bahamas with a negative RT-PCR COVID-19 test.
Bartlett said they then tested positive on the fifth-day rapid antigen COVID-19 test.
“These were followed by the RT-PCR, which all came back positive,” she said.
“They are currently asymptomatic and are being monitored by the local health team. We also had one person in New Providence that recently traveled from Exuma and was traveling back to Exuma, so she had to also do the RT-PCR to leave New Providence to travel [and] that also came back positive.
“That client is also asymptomatic and quarantined in New Providence. The sixth case would have come from an area in Exuma — unrelated to these other two scenarios — that presented for travel, too, and that person also had a positive RT-PCR and is also asymptomatic.”
Bartlett noted that there were an additional six suspected cases on the island.
She said they presented to a facility on Exuma.
Bartlett said two of the six suspected cases have tested negative.
The results for the remaining four are still pending, she said.