More transparency and more testing

The number of people under quarantine is now 493.

We have been told very little about how the coronavirus is spreading in The Bahamas apart from the fact that affected people come from New Providence, Grand Bahama, Bimini and Cat Cay and that the vast majority of infected people have had no foreign travel.

We were told that the first four cases are connected and two others are a mother and her child. We understand that Dr. Judson Eneas was infected by a patient.

Apart from advice that a small majority of cases identified on New Providence were residents who lived east of East Street, the public has not been advised of any “hot spots”. Internationally, it is common practice for the public to be given such information.

Clearly, community spread is responsible for the vast majority of COVID-19 infections in The Bahamas. Forty of 49 COVID-19 patients report no recent travel history. Only four patients have been connected to seven additional patients. The infected individuals are being infected in the community and the public is owed information.

The preoccupation with secrecy when dealing with COVID-19 is unjustified.

Five days ago, the management of a fast food chain informed the public that one of its employees tested positive for COVID-19. The government has been silent on the matter, apart from a curt acknowledgment in response to a reporter’s question. This governmental silence is damnable.

Last evening, the prime minister noted that age was a factor in some of the fatalities. Five fatalities were of individuals aged 67 and above and three were in their 50s.

The prime minister also informed that comorbidities including high blood pressure, asthma, cancer and obesity are impacting the severity and morbidity of some COVID-19 cases.

This too is information that is standardly given internationally.

We are told that quarantined people, whether in self-isolation at home or in a government-arranged quarantine, are monitored on a daily basis.

We were also previously informed that quarantined individuals were only being tested if they show symptoms of the disease.

This means that asymptomatic quarantined individuals who may be infected are not being tested, and undetected, they will continue to unknowingly infect others.

A recent report on testing in Iceland showed that as many as 50 percent of those with positive test results were asymptomatic. In other countries the number, though significant, is not as high.

Yesterday, one of the co-hosts of Good Morning America, ABC Television’s morning talk show, revealed that he had tested positive for the virus but was completely asymptomatic.

The prime minster acknowledged some testing limitations over the past weeks but said that more testing will take place, beginning this week. We strongly suggest that all people in quarantine in The Bahamas be tested.

Permitting the contacts of confirmed COVID-19 patients to re-enter the community following quarantine or self-isolation without positively determining that they are free of the virus is reckless.

We are encouraged by the prime minister’s advice suspending the wrong-headed alphabetical schedule for shopping for the remainder of this week.

We think that the modifications, providing weekend periods for restocking of stores, is a positive development.

We welcome the recommendation for food store and pharmacy managers to devise the most workable system of controlling the numbers of shoppers allowed into their businesses as a step in the right direction.

We do not think, however, that a system providing for the elderly and the physically challenged to shop between 6 a.m. and 8 a.m. daily and for essential workers to shop only on Saturday is thoughtful.

We believe that permanently abandoning efforts to schedule shopping would be better.

Stubbornly sticking to a policy of scheduled shopping will provide the same consequences it is supposedly intended to avoid – the absence of social distancing.

We trust that the public will demonstrate, over the next four days, that they are capable of exercising self-discipline, observing social distancing guidelines when in public and wearing face masks whenever they leave their homes.


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