There are an additional 750 COVID-19 test kits available in The Bahamas, Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands said yesterday, adding that the government has ordered an additional 5,000 to 6,000.
During a communication in the House of Assembly, Sands said the government has “enhanced testing capacity”.
“We can confirm that we have an additional 750 test kits in country at this time and we have ordered an additional 5,000 to 6,000 tests,” the minister said.
Sands said “every single Bahamian” will have access to testing.
“Our community health surveillance teams are able to move throughout the islands of The Bahamas,” he said.
“The testing has to be done in New Providence, however. So, tests will be obtained from suspected patients then brought in to the capital.
“As you can imagine, this is real-time polymerase chain reaction testing, which is, we have to get the RNA out of the specimen. That is done by the National Reference Lab in New Providence, so testing can be done of everyone in The Bahamas but it has to be done in New Providence.”
His announcement came not long after it was revealed that there have been two more confirmed cases of COVID-19 in The Bahamas.
Sands said the latest cases are individuals who live in the same house as the first COVID-19 patient — a 61-year-old New Providence resident.
He said the most recent patients had recently traveled to Canada, Trinidad and Dubai, which are “territories with known community transmission”.
“These household contacts have been quarantined and samples taken for testing,” Sands said.
“Other contacts, including healthcare providers, are being investigated to determine their level of exposure and risk. A total of 30 contacts of the COVID-19 positive patient have been identified.”
The minister said The Bahamas’ first confirmed case, which was announced on Sunday, led the operationalization of his ministry’s health disaster plan and the “full activation” of the Health Emergency Operation Centre.
“Now that we have transitioned from preparedness mode to response mode, the ministry will share some of its mitigation actions: retooled health services to redirect staff to enhance the COVID-19 response,” he said.
“We have modified existing protocols. We have manned a 24-hour hotline to ensure the public has an avenue to ask COVID-19-related questions and convey its burning concerns.
“We have redoubled efforts to ensure adequate or needed supplies, especially, and personal protective equipment supplies and test kits. We have augmented public messaging to educate the public.”
He also noted the government has “embedded” advanced policy recommendations “to bolster the social, labor, educational and economic response within a national COVID-19 co-ordinating mechanism”.
Sands said the government also officially launched its COVID-19 website — covid19.gov.bs.
It has also “formalized plans” to take health services to members of the public, according to the minister.
Sands said there has been a “collaboration between [the] public health system and private sector for enhanced treatment capacity” as well as the installation of a modular unit at Princess Margaret Hospital.
As of yesterday, there were nearly 215,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in at least 144 countries, according to the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center.
At least 8,700 people have died from the disease.
The World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic last week.
Shortly after, it announced that the epicenter of the pandemic is now Europe.