Editorials

Low testing for COVID-19 is worrying

Sunday evening’s national address by the prime minister did not inspire confidence.

He, as the competent authority, approved the return of Bahamian citizens and residents from Florida weeks after closing the country’s borders.

They traveled back to New Providence and Grand Bahama on two separate Bahamasair flights on Friday.

Now we know a COVID-19 positive patient arrived on the flight that stopped in Grand Bahama.

This is the first confirmed import of COVID-19 to The Bahamas. He has not yet been added to the number of positive cases in The Bahamas.

The presence of an infected and contagious individual presented a dangerous threat to the health of the other 90 plus passengers, the Bahamasair pilots and stewardesses.

The passengers included individuals recovering from medical treatments unrelated to COVID-19, and others who are considered high risk for COVID-19 because of either advanced age or the presence of known comorbidities including diabetes, hypertension, obesity and asthma.

In an interview published in The Tribune on Monday, the prime minister and minister of health is quoted as saying: “I was planning to go to Grand Bahama on Saturday to inspect health facilities and make sure they are on target, with respect to the Rand Memorial Hospital…On Friday we were informed by the health professionals they did not want me travelling to Grand Bahama, they thought it was too risky.

“They were concerned that while Grand Bahama does not have communal spread, there may be pockets (of cases) and I could walk into a pocket without necessarily knowing, so I had to cancel the trip.”

Doctors, nurses and allied health workers and all those engaged in the construction repairs continue to work in that environment in Grand Bahama daily.

Given that the overwhelming majority of confirmed COVID-19 cases are of New Providence residents and further that Grand Bahama has only eight confirmed cases, the prime minister’s decision not to visit the Rand Memorial Hospital raises rather than allays fears.

Our reporter’s interview with the latest individual to test positive for COVID-19 in Grand Bahama, a nurse from the Rand Memorial Hospital, raised serious questions about the management of suspected COVID-19 patients and those presenting for evaluation of symptoms.

The nurse’s experience exposed gaps in patient management which could easily translate into unintentional exposures to the disease by members of the public not only at medical facilities but at food stores, pharmacies and at other businesses authorized to serve the public.

The experiences relayed by the Grand Bahama nurse suggests that many people who ought to be tested are not being tested. Further, the expressed fear of her daughter attending the hospital in connection with her asthma condition is worrying as it is likely the same case with others.

Clearly there is a continued deficit of testing for COVID-19 in The Bahamas.

As of the May 8, 1,548 tests for COVID-19 had been completed in The Bahamas which has a population of some 393,244.

Barbados, with a population of 287,375, has completed 2,990 tests.

Bermuda, a British colony with some 62,000 people, completed 4,020 tests and Cayman, another British colony, with a population of 65,722, completed 3,423 tests.

This comparison is worrying.

Last week, Dr. Merceline Dahl-Regis, consultant in the Office of the Prime Minister, told us that if her team worked 24 hours a day, they could complete 100 tests in a day, but they are now completing just 36 daily.

We are not aware of any tests being conducted by individuals in old folks’ homes and other care facilities, in the prison or in the detention centre.

Also, those exposed to COVID-19 are not being tested, but what is worse they are being authorised to return to their communities without being tested.

Low test rates, combined with loose monitoring of confirmed COVID-19 cases and of their identified contacts does not bode well for our ability to reduce, contain and eliminate community spread of the disease.

And, the return to The Bahamas of the COVID-19 positive patient was at least recklessly negligent.

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