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Wells says govt was concerned about airlift for critically-ill COVID patients

A limited capacity for airlifting critically-ill COVID patients off island and rising COVID-19 cases lead the government to impose its 14-day lockdown for Cat Island, Bullocks Harbour, Great Harbour Cay and North and Central Andros, Minister of Health Renward Wells explained yesterday. 

All three islands have seen increased numbers of COVID infections in recent weeks, while New Providence continues to grapple with high numbers.

Wells said the government has access to three aircraft for the purpose of transporting sick patients, but noted that the government is working with a private company to increase capacity.

“We only have a couple of caravans that are capable of transporting individuals, the larger aircraft,” he said outside Cabinet.

“We have both the police and defense force caravans that we enlist from time to time. And so, we have to be extremely judicious in our use of such, because once we use them, they themselves are down for a week or two, being sanitized and the individuals themselves having to be quarantined.”

Asked exactly how many aircraft are available, Wells said: “I think there are about three caravans.

“But at the end of the day, the government of The Bahamas is going to have to look at how we can partner with a private sector aircraft operator who has that kind of larger facility. As you know, Air Ambulance is a private sector company that assists the government of The Bahamas.

“So, we’re going to be talking to Air Ambulance as well and seeing whether or not they would be able to secure even larger aircraft in the event in the future.”

Minnis announced the lockdowns on Sunday.

Wells said the move was necessary given the lack of healthcare facilities on those islands to adequately treat patients.

“From the beginning, we said that the government’s policy always was that we do not want … a surge of COVID-19 in the Family Islands because we do not have the requisite infrastructure in the Family Islands … the ventilators, the negative pressure inside the government facilities, to be able to hold on to those persons who become critical with COVID,” he said.

“We would have to fly them out and fly them into New Providence.

“So, our position has always been if we see the expanding and surging of COVID in an island, the government will move expeditiously to break the chains of transmission because we are better able to fight COVID on New Providence and Grand Bahama than we are in other places in the country.”

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Rachel Scott

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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