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PLP task force physician: High NCDs worsen COVID-19 threat

Dr. Melissa Evans, Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) COVID-19 task force co-chair, yesterday said the new coronavirus could be especially “catastrophic” for The Bahamas because of the high rate of non-communicable diseases that exists in the country.

“We do have to remember that unlike other countries, our country, deemed by the Ministry of Health, is 75 percent obese and we do carry a lot of comorbidities or chronic illnesses that will make rapid transmission of this disease and this pandemic catastrophic for us,” she said during a press conference at the PLP headquarters on Farrington Road. 

“I don’t mean to say that to cause hysteria. But I mean to say it to just express the severity of something like this, and how everyone should be cognitive of social distancing right at this time and plausible self quarantine and just to be really, really knowledgable about this.”

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), older patients or people with pre-existing health conditions are more likely to die from the disease.

Dr. Esther De Gourville, Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization country representative for The Bahamas and Turks and Caicos, in August described the state of health in The Bahamas as a “country in crisis”.

Taking this into account, Evans said the disease being so contagious is “what we deem to be worrisome in this pandemic”.

She stressed that social distancing is “crucial” in preventing its spread.

“We only have one case now, where we’re very fortunate for that,” Evans said.

“However, there might be several true cases out there that we haven’t confirmed yet, and that’s going to be a growing concern for the country.

“As numbers rise, and they will rise, in my belief, as they have around the world, it will become more important to really examine isolation and mandatory containment, and this, we found, around the world globally, has been what has been crucial in the reduction of new cases, worldwide.”

Evans urged elderly residents and those who may have compromised immune systems, like cancer patients or people with chronic illnesses, should self-quarantine to protect themselves.

She also praised the government’s decision to close schools as “a very good idea”, and said that children should be kept away from the general public during this time.

Although children may not display symptoms, Evans said, they are still able to “bring home” COVID-19 to a vulnerable person in the household.

“We need to be vigilant [and] we need to be very, very particular about our whereabouts – where we go, who we see, who we come in direct contact with,” she said.

Noting that she believes The Bahamas will ultimately have to implement lockdown measures like other countries, Evans added: “Really, really, containing the population is going to be imperative in putting a cap on the transmission rate of the disease at least until we can, as a country, come together and get everything in preparation to fight this war that we’re going to be faced [with].”

On Sunday, Acting Health Minister Jeffrey Lloyd revealed the first confirmed case of COVID-19.

The patient is a 61-year-old New Providence resident who had not traveled outside The Bahamas in the past 20 days.

Shortly afterwards, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis announced schools are closed until April 14; national sports events are canceled indefinitely; and permits for the use of public spaces for large gatherings are suspended indefinitely.

According to the Ministry of Health’s latest COVID-19 Bahamas Dashboard, there are over 185,000 confirmed cases of the virus worldwide and over 7,300 deaths.

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