Minister of Health Dr Duane Sands. (File photo)
By LEANDRA ROLLE
THE number of Bahamians in quarantine for signs related to the deadly coronavirus has increased to 10, according to local health officials. However, there are still no suspected or confirmed cases of the illness locally.
“Well, there are no reported, suspected or actual cases of coronavirus in the Commonwealth of The Bahamas. We continue to have a number of persons quarantined in Grand Bahama and New Providence,” Health Minister Dr Duane Sands told reporters outside Cabinet yesterday. “But, at this point, we are completing the national preparedness plan for coronavirus which we ought to release sometime today.”
The World Health Organisation declared the new strain of the coronavirus a public health emergency of international concern last week following its outbreak in Wuhan, China.
Since the announcement, many countries, including The Bahamas, have implemented travel restrictions on visitors from China to combat the spread of the new coronavirus, which has spread to at least 23 countries, has more than 20,000 confirmed cases on mainland China, with 426 deaths.
“Most countries have placed a ban of 14 days, but we overcompensated a little by going to 20 days so we wanted to be absolutely sure that no foreign visitors who could’ve been exposed to the virus in China would be attempting to enter the country,” Tourism Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar said yesterday when asked about concerns relating to the travel ban.
“We get very small amounts of foreign visitors directly from China and by and large, they have to go through another country to get here and you will notice that those other countries now are beginning to throw up roadblocks for those visitors.
“For example, the United States I see is denying any non-Americans from entering the United States if they’ve been in China for the last 14 days, so I think that that was the right step. Tourism, of course, is critical to our economy and we must be absolutely sure and resolute in attempting to protect our core industry.”
In response to the travel restrictions imposed, Chinese officials have since noted China does not support the travel ban. Speaking to The Tribune on Monday, Haigang Yin, the Chinese charge d’affaires to the Bahamas, said “The methods taken by the government are not in line with the recommendations of the director general of the World Health Organisation.”
Last week, top health officials said that non-residents who have visited China in the last 20 days will be denied entry to this country regardless of their nationality. Meanwhile, returning residents will be quarantined for an incubation period of 14 days at undisclosed sites. At last report, two people were under quarantine in Grand Bahama.
When contacted yesterday, Deputy Chief Medical Officer at the Ministry of Health Dr Delon Brennen told The Tribune: “All of the persons who are in quarantine are currently asymptomatic…(and) they’re not having any symptoms that make us believe that they are currently a case of the novel coronavirus.”
Common signs of coronavirus infection are a fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties.
In more severe cases, the infection causes pneumonia, severe respiratory distress, kidney failure and death. There is no vaccine or cure for the virus, but international reports suggest some people respond well to medical treatment.
In a statement released last night, the Ministry of Health said due to the fact the country has multiple ports of entry, other quarantine sites will be established, if necessary.
To prevent the spread of the virus, people are advised to wash their hands frequently and use hand sanitizer; cover your mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing, preferably in the sleeve or elbow; to clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and objects; and avoid close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness, such as coughing and sneezing.