Many were no doubt happy to hear that there will be no lockdown for the upcoming holiday weekend, but it is critical that residents do not take this sense of relief as a license to engage in activities that can make the current COVID crisis worse.
The stakes have not been higher since the start of the pandemic, considering the tremendous strain placed on hospitals and healthcare workers in New Providence and Grand Bahama.
There were 106 COVID patients hospitalized Wednesday, up six from the previous day and up 13 since Monday.
While it is true that most infected with COVID-19 will not develop symptoms serious enough to require hospitalization – a fact that encourages mostly younger people to take less precautions – enough people in the ongoing uncontrolled surge require hospitalization that patient care is threatened for everyone, whether COVID-positive or not.
Though younger people do have a low statistical risk of severe illness and death from COVID compared to those over the age of 60, the patient profile of those hospitalized in the third wave is younger on average than in the previous waves, and the current wave is claiming individuals in their 20s, 30s and 40s.
Moreover, with the COVID case fatality rate in The Bahamas among the highest in the Caribbean community, no adult, regardless of age, should take for granted the ongoing outbreak and its impact on the delivery of patient care to the public.
The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) warns that Latin America and the Caribbean face an “avalanche of worsening health issues” if COVID-19 disruptions in health services continue.
With this in mind, it is not the time for participating in large gatherings, or for being negligent in basic health protocols such as frequent hand washing, sanitization, and the proper wearing of face masks which in the case of cloth masks, ought to be washed frequently.
With so little data coming from the Ministry of Health on the activity of COVID-19 on various islands, many residents remain in the dark about what accounts for the surges, and what needs to happen to address them.
Eleuthera, Exuma and Abaco have seen marked daily increases in cases, though health officials have provided no details on case clusters, imported cases whether international or domestic, and areas where mitigation protocols need to be either introduced or enhanced.
Information from the ministry’s recent press conference indicates that travel is not observed as a significant factor in Grand Bahama’s spike which has led to a record number of COVID patients hospitalized, but factors beyond travel were not disclosed.
One would be hard-pressed to find residents who are not tired of COVID-19 and the restrictions that come along with it, but the surge of more transmissible COVID variants is evidence that the pandemic is not through with us yet.
The Delta variant is prompting more and more countries and businesses to adjust in the interest of safety, including Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, which has changed its policy for sailings five days or longer, to require all guests over the age of two to submit a negative PCR or antigen test prior to embarkation, regardless of vaccination status.
This policy, according to the company, is for all sailings in the United States from July 31 to August 31, and as of August 1, the testing window for sailings to The Bahamas has been shortened from five to three days.
The competent authority has given no indication that he intends to adjust any of his orders for fully vaccinated individuals, but whether vaccinated or not, it is essential that we take all necessary precautions to limit a further spread of COVID in the country.
We must remember that most residents are not vaccinated against severe illness and death from COVID-19, therefore we must continue to look out for the safety and well-being of each individual, most especially those in vulnerable age or comorbidity groups.
The pandemic indeed feels like a lifetime already, but if we all do our part, we can help to prevent further sickness and death.
A happy Emancipation Day to all, and as we relax and celebrate this holiday, let us please remember to act responsibly.