Free National Movement (FNM) Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis yesterday urged the government to implement more restrictive measures to get a handle on the spread of COVID-19 in The Bahamas.
“The FNM is very concerned with the amount of partying, socialization and events occurring here in The Bahamas, as the death rate remains high,” said Minnis in an interview with The Nassau Guardian.
“I again call on the government to introduce more aggressive measures for large gatherings that we are seeing today.
“They must remember that The Bahamas has the highest obesity rate in the Caribbean and in the presence of COVID, obesity increased the hospitalization rate by an additional 150 percent over the normal hospitalization rate. And obesity also increases the death rate by an additional 100 percent over the standard death rate.
“… Taking these factors into consideration, it is essential that the government must concentrate on saving lives and livelihoods and introduce aggressive measures.”
Minnis added, “With no changes and the vaccine supply running low, we will see the death rate remaining and hospitalizations would commence increasing again.”
The Bahamas has been struggling with an unprecedented surge in the third wave of COVID cases, hospitalizations and deaths.
However, within a day of being elected, Prime Minister Philip Brave Davis relaxed the curfew on multiple islands, including New Providence, moving it to 11:59 p.m.
Since then, new COVID cases appear to have decreased, though positivity rates still remain high. Health officials, including former Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands, have also warned that COVID deaths are continuing at a worrying rate, with hospitals still overwhelmed.
Minister of Health and Wellness Dr. Michael Darville said on Tuesday that the government does not intend to impose any additional COVID-related restrictions at this point.
“We feel that at this particular time, we are OK to the point that we do not need to bring restrictions back to where they were,” he said.
However, Darville noted that the government is watching the situation “extremely closely” and assured that if the government sees the need to implement more restrictions, it would do so.
The Bahamas is also dealing with a shortage of COVID vaccines, as the Ministry of Health and Wellness announced earlier this week that, due to diminishing supplies of the vaccine, first doses of Pfizer will no longer be offered as of October 14.
As of October 23, second doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine will not be offered, according to the ministry, which added that, consequently, the Pfizer vaccine will be made available as a second dose instead.
Minnis yesterday accused the Davis administration of “dropping the ball” with securing more doses.
“They have already dropped the ball on obtaining our vaccines in a timely fashion,” he said.
“In the past, the Office of the Prime Minister was intimately involved in ensuring that the process was followed through to delivery. And I call on the prime minister to do the same. Follow through to the delivery.
“I also ask the government, where is the private sector with the vaccines that they themselves were insisting to us, the government at that time, that we were refusing from the private sector?
“We told them repeatedly that it could not happen. They insisted that we were refusing. So, where are the vaccines now that they said were available via the private sector? Where are they?”
According to the Ministry of Health and Wellness, as of Saturday, 115,153 people were fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in The Bahamas (including Johnson & Johnson vaccine), and a total of 127,798 people had received at least one dose of a vaccine (not including Johnson & Johnson).
The national vaccination campaign has been ongoing since March.
The Bahamas has secured more than 500,000 doses of three vaccines: Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca and Pfizer.
Darville said that roughly 57,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine are expected to arrive in the country early next month through the COVAX Facility.
The government is also still awaiting more than 250,000 doses of Pfizer, which were donated by the United States (US).
Darville said he has inquired about the arrival of the doses from the US and has been told that the process “is in play”.