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Growing concern surge may be coming

So far, 191 COVID cases have been recorded in The Bahamas, for the month of December, with numbers seeming to trend upward in recent days.

Eighty-five cases — nearly half the total, so far for the month, have been recorded in the past four days alone.  

Daily test positivity rates have also been increasing, though the numbers are sporadic.

While rates remained consistently around or below five percent for weeks, an eight percent rate was recorded on December 11 and a 10 percent rate — double the World Health Organization’s recommended maximum — on December 13.

COVID hospitalizations have also increased in recent days, with 21 people hospitalized as of December 15, compared to 15 a week before on December 8.

The figure is still significantly lower than the all-time high, which was recorded at the height of the third wave of COVID in early September, when nearly 200 people were hospitalized with COVID.

But after weeks of a lull in new cases, former Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands warned yesterday that the recent figures could be indicating the beginning of yet another surge.

“We are no longer seeing three or two or one case a day,” he said.

“And this is how it starts.”

Sands noted that trends around the globe, combined with no significant adjustments to The Bahamas’ entry requirements, means there is a high risk of cases being imported. 

“I said several weeks ago that I expected a fourth wave and the metrics of the places that refer visitors to us have deteriorated to the tune of a 40-plus percent increase in two weeks in the US, and a terrifying increase in the number of cases in Great Britain,” he said.

“I don’t see that we have done anything differently to reduce the likelihood that we were going to be importing cases of COVID, or that our natives who travel to those areas will be screened more aggressively to make sure that they aren’t bringing it into the country.”

Sands said The Bahamas needs to be proactive.

He recommended that the government consider changing travel testing protocols to require PCR tests for all people entering the country, as well as shorten the timeframe in which those tests can be done. 

As it currently stands, vaccinated individuals traveling to The Bahamas are required to have a negative antigen test or PCR result that is no more than five days old at the time of entering the country, while unvaccinated individuals must test negative via a PCR test also no more than five days old.

Sands said that, unfortunately, The Bahamian healthcare system seems to be in a worse state than it was during the third wave, which saw hundreds of people with COVID get hospitalized and die.

“I think we are less well off,” he said.

“Bear in mind that people are incredibly tired of COVID. We have lost significant numbers of people, both to illness, to death, and to resignation and retirement.

“The numbers of registered nurses, in particular, have dropped not just in the public sector but in the private sector as well.

“And so, if you have the kind of wave that we had for the third wave, I think it’s going to be very challenging to mount even an equivalent response.

“You know, it’s tough.

“Nobody wants to see another surge of COVID. Nobody wants to go down the road of seeing hundreds of your family members, friends, loved ones die.

“But the numbers around the world, the admonitions, the warnings, etc., don’t seem to be getting as much traction as they should in The Bahamas.”

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Rachel Scott

Rachel joined The Nassau Guardian in January 2019. Rachel covers national issues. Education: University of Virginia in Charlottesville, BA in Foreign Affairs and Spanish

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