Sands: There is a low risk of catching COVID-19 at the beach

Former Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands said yesterday that research indicates that there is a low to moderate risk of contracting COVID-19 on beaches.

His comments follow Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis’ decision to close beaches during the Independence Day holiday weekend.

While addressing the House of Assembly yesterday, Sands said, “The Texas Medical Association published — and I will table this when I am done — a table of risks going from least to most. The lowest risks being opening the mail or getting restaurant takeout to the highest risk being going to a bar.

“Mr. Speaker, going to the beach would be listed as…low to moderate risk or moderate risk, with a number of things that we do in The Bahamas — like working in an office building, swimming in a public pool, visiting elderly relatives or a friend at their home, eating at a restaurant, traveling by plane, playing basketball or working out at a gym — all of these things that are allowed are a higher risk than going to the beach, provided that the appropriate social distancing and masks wearing when people are not in the water is maintained.”

On July 6, the prime minister said beaches and parks on Grand Bahama, Paradise Island, New Providence and its surrounding cays will be closed as of tonight at 10 p.m. They will reopen at 5 a.m. on Monday.

This was done to prevent mass gathering and contain the spread of COVID-19 in The Bahamas, according to Minnis.

The Bahamas confirmed two additional cases of the virus on Grand Bahama yesterday.

They were the first cases confirmed in The Bahamas in nearly a month.

Health officials have predicted a spike in cases as a result of the reopening of The Bahamas’ borders last week.

With the United States being The Bahamas’ primary tourism market, there is some public concern about U.S. visitors bringing the virus to The Bahamas, particularly Family Islands that have not reported any cases since the start of the pandemic.

Yesterday, the Elizabeth MP described the United States as “our greatest risk”.

“Mr. Speaker, the United States has done quite a bit in changing its ability to test,” he said.

“As a matter of fact, they have tripled the number of tests that they have done from April to now. They have gone up three times and yet they are still not able to say that this pandemic is controlled.”

Sands noted that there are “serious challenges” in 27 U.S. states.

“We have to look critically at our biggest ally, trading partner, source of income and decide how are we going to deal with visitors from the United States,” he said.

“When we decided to put a travel restriction on China, there were less than 50,000 cases in China. The United States now has three million confirmed cases and some 50,000 cases per day and increasing. I am not standing here, Mr. Speaker, to say that we should ban travelers from the United States.

“What I am saying is we have to make every effort to ensure that every single visitor, when they come here, has a negative COVID test and that we are doing rigorous, meticulous tests on everyone who enters this country.”

On Tuesday, the United States reported more than 60,000 new cases of COVID-19.

Florida, which is located just 50 miles from The Bahamas, reported over 7,300 cases on Tuesday and nearly 10,000 yesterday.

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