Sands: Unlikely that more countries will be added to travel ban

While the risk level in The Bahamas for an outbreak of COVID-19, the new coronavirus, is “very high,” Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands said yesterday it is unlikely that any more countries will be added to the current travel ban list.

“As we get to a point where more and more countries have widespread community transmission, the benefit of additional border control interventions is reduced dramatically,” he said at a press conference.

“And so, as time goes on, it is less likely that we are going to increase the number of countries on that list.”

Sands added, “There’s a rapidly diminishing likelihood that we will be able to evade that first case or more and so, our focus is more on preparation, containment and management.”

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.

Chief Medical Officer Dr. Pearl McMillan said yesterday that the risk for the entire Caribbean region is very high, due to a number of factors, including: reported COVID-19 cases in three Caribbean countries; sustained transmission of the disease in countries with direct flights into the region; multiple countries reporting local transmission, and significantly more new cases of the disease being reported outside China than in China.

As of yesterday, there were nearly 110,000 cases of COVID-19 across the globe. Over 3,800 people have died with the majority of deaths in mainland China.

The virus has been spreading throughout the United States, where there were over 500 confirmed cases and 22 deaths.

Asked about the potential implementation of measures like scanning for fevers at points of entry into The Bahamas, McMillan said it is not an efficient use of resources.

“It has not proven to be very effective, in part because a temperature is a point in time,” she said. “So, a person may not have a temperature at the time when they come through.

“[I]t’s a false sense of security.

“Our efforts would be better placed in ensuring that we are putting in place the measures at our health care facilities that detect early, that identify, isolate and do those kinds of things.”

McMillan said that, so far, nobody in The Bahamas has been tested for COVID-19 because there have been no suspected cases.

Sands said that while there are already over 100 tests kits available in The Bahamas, there will soon be more.

“In total, we have the capacity for more than 100, less than 200 at this time,” he said.

“We anticipate being able to ramp that up.”

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Rachel Knowles

Rachel joined The Nassau Guardian in January 2019. Rachel covers national issues. Education: University of Virginia in Charlottesville, BA in Foreign Affairs and Spanish

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