Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands said that while the government is stocking up on the anti-retroviral drug, Interferon, its efficacy in treating COVID-19 has not been proven and should not be relied on.
“I think it’s important for people to know that there are no therapies that have been validated, none,” he said.
“I know that’s disappointing and that people would like to believe that if they took Interferon or what have you, [it would work].
“Now, The Bahamas is hedging its bets. We have accepted a donation of some 150 to 200 doses of Interferon. We expect to get them as early as next week. But I will say to you that I cannot endorse that therapy as beneficial.”
Sands added, “We have to be honest with people and realize that when people are desperate, they will try almost anything.”
The Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) has called for the government to obtain Interferon for the treatment of COVID-19 amid reports that it can be effective in treating the disease.
However, Sands warned that it is not that simple.
“There are more than 2,500 therapies that are out there to deal with COVID-19,” he said.
“There’s a whole lot of different tests that are out there.
“There are a number of vaccines that are being trialed and so on, but none of them have now reached the point of the rigorous determination of safety and efficacy.”
There are three confirmed cases of COVID-19 in The Bahamas.
The country’s first patient was identified as a 61-year-old woman who had no recent travel history.
The symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough, shortness of breath and, in severe cases, pneumonia and even sepsis.
As of yesterday, there were nearly 230,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in at least 144 countries, according to the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center.
At least 9,000 people have died from the disease.
The World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic last week. Shortly after, it announced that the epicenter of the pandemic is now Europe.
Minnis announced earlier this week that foreigners who have been in the UK or Europe in the past 20 days will not be allowed entry into The Bahamas. Bahamians who have recently visited the region will face quarantine upon entering The Bahamas.
At the last report, there were over 10,000 confirmed cases in the United States and 149 deaths.
One of the concerns with the global spread of the virus has been the ability of healthcare systems to manage the crisis.
A shortage of nurses in The Bahamas has been identified as a longstanding issue. However, Sands said that while it is a concern, there is a plan in place to ensure there are sufficient nurses to cope with the spread of the virus.
“It has been a concern,” he said.
“However, at this point, as we repurpose services, what we have decided to do is move staff from other services. We are going to focus on the response to COVID-19 as a priority, even as we maintain the ability to provide emergency services.
“And with that, I think we will have an adequate contingent of nurses and nursing extenders to respond to this crisis.”