The number of confirmed novel coronavirus cases in The Bahamas to-date stands at four, Ministry of Health Dr. Duane Sands revealed Sunday while updating the media on efforts his ministry is taking to mitigate the spread of the contagious and deadly virus.
This, after Prime Minister Hubert Minnis revealed Friday that the number of COVID-19 cases had bumped up a notch from three – with all of them confirmed in New Providence.
“COVID-19 remains a serious threat. The Ministry of Health has activated its Emergency Operation Centre as part of its strategy to mitigate the spread of this coronavirus and to save lives,” Dr. Sands said.
To date, 117 people have been tested locally; seven people are in quarantine; 35 people have been released and the 61-year-old New Providence woman, who is recorded as the first case, remains in isolation in hospital in stable condition.
Health Minister Sands says the additional three cases, who are contacts of the first case, remain in isolation and do not require hospitalization at this time.
While the number of confirmed cases is presently low, Dr. Sands is warning residents not to get complacent as health officials expect to see a surge in the near future.
“I believe that we are concerned about the possibility of a surge in the near future. And so while we are gratified to see the number at only four we do not believe that we should in any way restrain our efforts to both mitigate this but also to identify and to manage any patients. And so, we are going to ask people not to have a false sense of security.”
In that vein, the Ministry of Health has expanded its testing capacity and at present, there are 1,750 test kits in New Providence; 10,000 rapid test kits have been ordered and 2,500 test kits expected to be in New Providence by mid-week.
Additionally, Dr. Sands said, the Pan American Health Organization is helping to build lab capacity and continues to assist in sourcing additional test kits.
The Ministry of Health’s National Reference Laboratory is conducting the COVID-19 testing and is the only lab in The Bahamas internationally certified to do so and, he noted, Doctors Hospital will come on stream Monday to treat COVID-19-positive patients.
While Dr. Sands is satisfied with the measures his ministry has implemented to-date, he is confident there will be more changes as assessments are made.
He urged all residents to follow the Emergency Powers (COVID-19) Orders announced by the prime minister to help reduce the spread of the virus, adding that the brave healthcare workers need everyone’s help to fight this pandemic and save lives.
Dr. Sands reiterated those safety measures:
• Stay home if you feel ill and have a fever and/or respiratory symptoms;
• If you have cold or flu-like symptoms and think you need to see a physician, call ahead first to alert them that you are coming;
• Frequently wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water;
• Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing, and then discard it. Or, cover your mouth and nose with your upper sleeve;
• Refrain from touching your face.
Social distancing, he said, is keeping away from others as much as is possible. Effective social distancing is critical to us stopping the spread of this virus.
“Don’t congregate at hang-out spots or on in the neighbourhood; don’t entertain visitors and family members in your home; when standing online, maintain a three to six-feet distance from the person in front of you or behind you; stay at home unless you have to go out for essential items or if you are an essential services or health worker,” he said.
“If you must leave home for essential items and emergency services, maintain at least a three-foot distance between you and others. We need every Bahamian to help save lives by following this advice. By unnecessarily moving around in the community you could contract this virus and spread it to your friends and family.”
Pointing out that information is critical, the health minister is reminding the public to get their information about the virus from official government sources and reputable and trusted media.