By FARRAH JOHNSON
THE number of Bahamians in quarantine for signs related to the novel coronavirus has increased to six, according to Health Minister Dr Duane Sands.
On Monday, four Bahamians were placed in quarantine after travelling on a Canadian flight with a passenger that tested positive for the deadly disease.
Yesterday, Dr Sands confirmed that two more people were quarantined on Wednesday.
While the minister did not reveal the circumstances surrounding the new additions, he did confirm that neither individual was on the Canadian flight with the four other people who were quarantined.
Since the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the new strain of the coronavirus a public health emergency of international concern, countries around the world have implemented travel restrictions on visitors from China.
Many nations have also quarantined citizens that would have been in the affected region recently.
To date, there are 82,550 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus worldwide, with 60 confirmed cases reported in the United States and 11 in Canada.
Asked how his ministry was able to identify citizens that might have been exposed to the virus when travelling, he explained: “The Bahamas is a participant in the International Health Regulations 2005, which mandates that all member countries of the WHO have a requirement to report certain matters of public health concern through the IHR mechanism.
“The focal point of the IHR mechanism in the Bahamas is the chief medical officer and so we have agreed that if there is a sentinel event that occurs in the Bahamas that we will notify the IHR within 24 hours. That is true in every other country.”
Dr Sands said that in the case with the four persons in quarantine, the “mechanism was triggered” when the person on their flight tested positive for the virus.
“They subsequently would have notified the Bahamas, I believe on the 23 of February,” he said.
“We then had to find those persons and that took about 12-18 hours and then once they were identified and located we then transferred them into the quarantine facility.
“That’s how the system works and as long as your public health infrastructure is intact — as ours is — it works quite well.”
Dr Sands said his ministry is monitoring the virus diligently through the existing public health infrastructure that has also allowed officials to monitor other diseases like tuberculosis, influenza and cancer.
He also confirmed that all of the people currently in quarantine are “asymptomatic,” having shown no signs of any respiratory disease.
Yesterday, the minister took to social media to address public concerns of the virus spreading locally.
In a video posted to his Facebook page, he explained that the MSC cruise ship that was heading for this country after being denied entry in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands, did not have any passengers that tested positive for the virus.
“For the record, the ship was denied entry into Jamaica not because there was any evidence of COVID-19 or coronavirus infection, but because they had incomplete maritime documentation,” he said.
“The patient on board the ship who was isolated has been lab confirmed to have influenza. This was confirmed at a high level meeting chaired by the Prime Minister of Barbados Mia Mottley and the Director of the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) Carissa Etienne and it involved most of the ministers of health of the CARICOM nations.”
Dr Sands insisted the government would not “put the safety and the welfare of Bahamians” or the country at risk.
He added that “out of an abundance of caution,” officials requested that a test for the novel coronavirus be done on the patient to ensure that “there is no threat whatsoever.”
“In summary, this patient does not have any evidence of COVID-19 infection and there is no reason to deny entry,” he said.
“The ship successfully docked in Mexico and the passengers disembarked without difficulty.”
According to the MSC Cruises’ website, the ship is expected in the Bahamas on Saturday after leaving Mexico.