Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands said a team has already been identified to deal with a potential outbreak of the new coronavirus, COVID-19, in The Bahamas.
“We have the nucleus of that team and we are building it out in various places,” he said.
“But if we had a case today, we could identify exactly who would respond right now.”
Sands said an additional facility is being set up at Princess Margaret Hospital (PMH), which suffers from overcrowding, to prepare for such a situation.
“We have designed and have started the process of building out an on-site special unit for managing patients that could possibly have severe acute respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19. That will be a six-bed unit on the PMH. And we have also agreed on a design for the unit at the defense force base, which will be a 20-bed unit inclusive of intensive care space.
“And that process is moving as rapidly as possible.”
COVID-19, which can cause pneumonia, originated in Wuhan, China late last year. Since then, it has spread to all continents except Antarctica, with major outbreaks in China, South Korea, Iran and Italy.
Currently, non-residents who have visited any of those countries in the past 20 days are not being allowed to enter The Bahamas. Residents who have visited any of the countries in the past 20 days face a two-week quarantine.
As of yesterday, there were over 110,000 cases of the virus across the globe. Over 4,000 people have died with the majority of deaths in mainland China.
The virus has been spreading throughout the United States where there were over 600 confirmed cases and 27 deaths.
Jamaican officials confirmed yesterday that country’s first imported case of COVID-19.
Sands said there are just under 400 test kits in the country at the moment.
“Obviously no country can say that they had this in their plan or their budget for 2020,” Sands said.
“And so, as rapidly as possible, at the level of the Cabinet and all of the ministries of government, we are rolling out our plans. That has to be discussed with stakeholders, have input from various persons. And then, what I believe people would like to see is, they’ve seen the health plan, they would like to see the education plan, which is soon going to be coming out, and so on and so forth.”
Sands said a hotline will be available for people to report symptoms of the virus.
“Today, we will be rolling out the hotline that persons with symptoms of respiratory illness, fever etc. can call 24 hours a day,” he said.
“…We would prefer that if people are not well that they stay at home unless they are so seriously ill that they have no choice. So, if you are sick, your children are sick, but you are not so ill, not short of breath, then we would prefer that you not spread whatever illness you have to the community.”