Minister of Health Renward Wells.
By LEANDRA ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
HEALTH Minister Renward Wells said officials will not know until mid-January if holiday celebrations will lead to an uptick in COVID-19 cases.
“We’ve not seen the uptick,” he said outside Cabinet. “You would see that in the numbers that have been reported so far. I think our last case, we had eight. We had four in New Providence on Sunday... but over the weekend, we’ve had ten and under so our numbers still look good and the virus has a 14-day incubation period, so whatever you do, you don’t see it for anywhere to seven to 14 days. So we’d be looking maybe in the second week in January as to how and whether as a people, and I’m just staying in the Christmas season, whether we’ve been naughty or nice.”
This comes as the country continues to record new infections in single digit numbers, with just four additional cases reported on Monday and eight on Sunday. COVID-19 cases in the country tallied 7,846 up to press time, with 1,444 of those still active.
Despite the low figures, Mr Wells also urged people to not let their guard down this festive period to help the country avoid experiencing a third COVID-19 wave.
“I know it’s the festive season, we know it’s the holiday season, we know you want to connect with family, but let’s do so in a way that’s safe so that at the end of the day all of us could continue to move through this period having the kind of festivities that we would need to and want to have and not have the blowback from not having done what we needed to as a people,” he told reporters outside of Cabinet.
Asked if the public can expect to see more restrictions being implemented if cases increase considerably after the holidays, the minister replied that drastic measures will only be taken if community spread is too high.
He said: “The reality is this, you would remember during the second wave that we did not shut the country down immediately. We seek to, through the healthcare apparatus to be able to deal with any potential surge initially.
“We have our contact tracing team in place, the surveillance team that are able to identify the virus with persons who present and who are sick and then we immediately jump into action, contact tracing all of the individuals that they would’ve come into contact with seeking to have those persons quarantined.
“So, we’re seeking to do all of the healthcare training protocols that are necessary without having to shut the country down. We only go to lockdowns when the spread, the positivity rate is so large. It’s astronomical that we need to in actual fact shut the nation down in order to get our hands around the virus.”
Yesterday, Mr Wells also spoke about the new COVID-19 strain that was first detected in the UK but has now spread to countries like Germany, Canada, the United States and Japan.
Several countries have already placed border restrictions on the UK since the new strain was reported. However, Mr Wells said the Bahamas does not plan to follow suit at this current time.
“We’re not seeking to close our borders again as a country,” he said. “The prime minister has spoken that we’re in a phase where we’re seeking to keep the economy open and keep the Bahamian people working and doing what we need to as a Ministry of Health, as a government, as a competent authority, to be able to ensure that all of the issues and the protocols we have in place continue to address the issue of health for the Bahamian people in a way that allows us the freedoms that we currently have.”
Regarding the COVID-19 vaccine, Mr Well said negotiations with several vaccine distributors are still ongoing, adding that the government is hoping to have one in the country soon.