Although nearly half of the people who were required to take rapid antigen tests after arriving in The Bahamas did not, Minister of Health Renward Wells maintained yesterday that the travel protocols are working and do not need to be re-evaluated.
Wells said low COVID hospitalizations in The Bahamas are proof that the protocols are effective.
“The numbers don’t bear that out,” he told reporters outside Cabinet.
“The proof of the pudding is in the eating. The numbers say where we’re at, and so we will be looking at the numbers going forward.
“Remember, now, these protocols were in place from November 1. We are almost two and a half months down the road from November 1. And as we can see, the circumstance in the country is still in hand.”
Wells added, “We have four persons hospitalized as of today, down from the 15 that were in the hospital on
January 1. I think that the health protocols that we have in place are working to the extent that we would like to see them work.”
As of November 1, individuals arriving into The Bahamas — including visitors, who are staying for more than five days, and returning citizens and residents — are required to have a negative RT-PCR test within five days of arrival, obtain a travel health visa and undergo a rapid antigen test five days after arrival. Any individual who tests positive on the antigen test is required to take a follow-up RT-PCR test.
However, it was revealed weeks after the new policy came into place that the antigen tests were not being done on a number of Family Islands. When questioned on the matter multiple times, Wells said he was not aware of the fact, even though Minister of Tourism Dionisio D’Aguilar had confirmed it.
On Friday, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Pearl McMillan said roughly 26,000 antigen tests have come back negative since November when the requirement came into place and quarantine was lifted for travelers to The Bahamas.
However, Ministry of Health Senior House Officer Dr. Cherita Moxey said that 21,000 people, or roughly 46 percent of individuals, were supposed to have taken the rapid antigen test but did not.
McMillan said of the people who tested, 113, or 0.16 of them, were positive.
Wells said yesterday that that number is the more important one.
“…I think what is instructive more so is the 0.1 percent of those who tested, 0.1 percent, not one percent, 0.1 percent tested positive with the rapid antigen test,” he said.
“It speaks to the strength of the health protocols. It speaks to the fact of us requiring that RT-PCR test five days before you come, that shortened window. So, I think that the health protocols so far are bearing out the way we would like to see it. And we are seeing the results of it in regards to those persons coming into the country.”