Nine Bahamians who recently traveled to China and returned home are now under quarantine, Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands said yesterday.
Sands said at least one person is under quarantine on Grand Bahama.
On January 30, the government implemented a 14-day quarantine for all Bahamians who were recently in China within the last 20 days, following the outbreak of the Wuhan coronavirus.
According to Sands, there were 160 Bahamians in China during the outbreak of the virus.
A travel ban was also issued for all non-residents with a recent history of travel to China.
The World Health Organization (WHO) officially declared the virus – which originated in Wuhan, China, in December – a global health emergency and local health officials shortly afterwards announced a new travel ban on all non-residents of The Bahamas who visited China.
“Again, you know, we’ve had additional persons come in today, yesterday,” Sands said on Saturday.
He continued, “But any Bahamian citizen or resident who arrives in The Bahamas, by whatever means, will be quarantined. And we’ve had no citizen or resident who has manifested any signs or symptoms of coronavirus infection.”
Sands also acknowledged that there is some “controversy” regarding the new travel ban as some residents are against the government allowing Bahamians in China to return to the country at all.
The sentiments were expressed to him, he said, during a meeting held on Friday with family members and loved ones of some of the 160 Bahamians in China during the viral outbreak; however he said that a new U.S. travel ban raised additional concerns about whether those Bahamians will even be able to return home.
“I don’t think there’s any pushback to the quarantine,” he said.
“The bigger question is, is there a possibility of getting people back home?
“Now, you know, sentiments are mixed. There are some people who do not believe it’s a good idea bringing persons from China into The Bahamas and there are other people who want their loved ones back home.
“Obviously that is a controversial issue, but we certainly thought it was important to listen and to try and answer questions.”
He added, “So, ultimately the overarching issue is what is the right thing for the Commonwealth of The Bahamas and its citizens and that means the majority of the citizens, not the individual citizen.”
Sands previously noted that flights from China “typically will travel through Canada, the United States, Great Britain or Cuba”, however, he pointed out on Saturday that the U.S. recently joined with other countries that have closed their borders to arrivals from China.
A number of major airlines have also halted services to China.
“The United States shutting down its borders to persons from mainland China is a game changer in as much as it restricts the possibility of people getting back to The Bahamas from China,” Sands said.
“So, there’s a number of issues that are very fluid and I think the relevant ministries are actively working through the logistics every day… you know, this has implications for cruise ships, implications for airlines, for fixed-based operations and so on.”
A private plane transporting passengers from China was just this weekend turned away from landing in The Bahamas and a memo obtained by The Guardian, which was addressed to Disney Cruise Line passengers, notified its onboard guests that if they had been to China in the past 20 days they would not be allowed to disembark in the country.
Experts in the U.S. say the Wuhan coronavirus will likely become a pandemic.
So far, there are 27 countries with confirmed cases of the virus including Canada, the U.S., Spain, Germany, Sweden, the United Kingdom and Finland, to name a few.
As of yesterday, there were 17,205 cases of the virus and 361 deaths. The New York Times reported that a 44-year-old man in the Philippines died of the virus yesterday, making him the first known death outside of China.