Health Minister Dr Duane Sands.
By EARYEL BOWLEG
FOUR Bahamians are currently in quarantine after travelling on a Canadian flight with a passenger that tested positive for the novel coronavirus, also referred to as COVID-19.
The Bahamian residents travelled on a Canadian domestic flight on February 14 and returned to this country on February 21, the Ministry of Health said in a statement yesterday.
“Canadian health officials discovered that a passenger on the said flight tested positive for COVID-19,” the ministry said.
“The Ministry of Health contacted the Bahamian residents travelling on that flight, evaluated them, and placed them in quarantine out of an abundance of caution. Consequently, there are a total of four persons in quarantine. All patients remain asymptomatic, and show no signs of any respiratory disease.”
The statement stressed that there are no suspected, reported or confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Bahamas.
Canadian media reported that the British Columbia (BC) Centre for Disease Control confirmed on Sunday that a woman in her mid-30s onboard an Air Canada flight from Montreal to Vancouver became the province’s sixth presumptive case of COVID-19.
The woman had travelled from Iran where that country’s Deputy Health Minister Iraj Harirchi had announced he had contracted the virus and the nation has a COVID-19 death count of eight.
Those who were sitting close to her on the plane and other flight staff have been contacted by public health officials as a precautionary measure.
Health Minister Dr Duane Sands said those Bahamians on the Canadian flight have been in quarantine since Monday.
To date, COVID-19 has infected more than 80,000 globally and killed at least 2,700.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) said it is too early to call the outbreak a pandemic but countries should prepare, which Dr Sands assured The Bahamas is doing.
“A particular country doesn’t plan for a pandemic,” he said yesterday. “A particular country plans for the possibility of one or more cases of a particular disease in that country. The pandemic speaks to an infection or a disease which spreads around many countries – a new disease. So, yes we have prepared. We have a national plan which has been disseminated …and yes we are making preparations like every other country.”
He later posted to Facebook that the Bahamas has the capacity to test for the virus.
“The Bahamas National Reference Laboratory, headed by Dr Indira Martin, confirmed the capacity to test for COVID-19 in Nassau as of today (Tuesday),” Dr Sands wrote. “This capacity strengthens our ability to respond to this emerging public threat.”
Meanwhile, an official from the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention warned yesterday that health experts are predicting the novel coronavirus will spread in the United States.
“We expect we will see community spread in this country,” said Dr Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Centre for Immunisation and Respiratory Diseases. “It’s not so much a question of if this will happen anymore, but rather more a question of exactly when this will happen and how many people in this country will have severe illness.”
A handful of Bahamians were placed in quarantine several weeks ago after travel to China, the epicentre of the outbreak, but were later released after not showing any signs of the deadly virus.