Travelers coming into The Bahamas from areas of China affected by the new coronavirus will likely be quarantined for 14 days, Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands said yesterday.
Speaking at a press conference at the Ministry of Health, Sands said the ministry is finalizing plans for how best to handle those cases.
“At this point it is anticipated that anybody from those affected areas would be quarantined for 14 days,” he said.
“A number of students have expressed a desire to return home and are indeed preparing to return home. Every country that has repatriated their citizens has done so with an abundance of concern but with a significant dose of caution.
“And so, the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, France, et cetera, have agreed to place those citizens in quarantine. It is likely that The Bahamas will do the same thing.
“We are now finalizing all of the logistical plans for welcoming our citizens back home but clearly it needs to be done in a way that is safe and in accordance with best practices in public health.”
In the House of Assembly yesterday, Sands further recommended that Bahamians who must travel in affected regions in China take extra precautions to protect themselves.
“[T]he Ministry of Health recommends that persons who must travel in that region take precautions to protect themselves by avoiding direct contact with sick people and products that come from animals,” he said.
“Be diligent, pay attention and equip yourself with travel advisory information related to the 2019 novel coronavirus before you travel.
“If during or after your travel, symptoms of respiratory illness are experienced, you are encouraged to immediately contact a medical provider who will guide you as to your next steps. Be ready to give your full travel history to health care providers.
“All persons returning to The Bahamas from China will be monitored. If medical providers have questions, please contact the Disease Surveillance Unit at the Ministry of Health.”
Minister of Foreign Affairs Darren Henfield said on Sunday that there have been no confirmed cases of the virus among the five Bahamians in China.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs further noted that the ambassador and his staff are in close contact with the students and also that the embassy is in contact with all Bahamian students and nationals in other parts of China.
In the meantime, Sands last week said the World Health Organization (WHO) has not recommended any travel restrictions pertaining to the virus for The Bahamas.
Nonetheless, he met with Lynden Pindling International Airport (LPIA) employees on Monday to quell concerns over the potential spread.
He also addressed concerns raised by the Bahamas Nurses Union that The Bahamas does not have quarantine stations to place anyone ill with contagious deadly diseases like coronavirus, saying that the Ministry of Health would instead use isolation rooms as makeshift quarantines if needed.
On Tuesday, the Public Hospitals Authority (PHA) also issued a statement dispelling rumors that there was a case of the illness in The Bahamas as it pledged to “keep the public fully informed”.