By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Senior Reporter
A RECORD 21 new COVID-19 cases were recorded yesterday, 20 in Grand Bahama and one in New Providence, bringing the country’s toll in virus infections to 174.
This comes as the Ministry of Finance announced that Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest will self-quarantine for 14 days after one of his aides tested positive for the coronavirus. Mr Turnquest “received a negative COVID-19 RT-PCR test result on Friday, July 17, 2020,” a statement said.
“Following the Ministry of Health’s protocols, Minister Turnquest took the test after learning he was exposed to a positive case earlier that day. Out of an abundance of caution and on advice, Minister Turnquest has voluntarily entered self-quarantine. He continues to perform his functions as minister of finance, working remotely from home.”
In addition, Deputy Chief Medical Officer Delon Brennen told The Tribune officials are investigating a potential COVID-19 death. There have been 11 confirmed COVID-19 deaths to date.
The Public Hospitals Authority also announced that an emergency medical technician in New Providence tested positive for COVID-19 after developing symptoms. The technician has no history of travel and the exposure points toward community-based spread, the PHA said.
“The Surveillance Unit of the Ministry of Health is carrying out ongoing contact tracing in this regard,” the PHA said in a statement. “To date 10 persons connected to the EMT have been placed in quarantine. PHA ambulances and the impacted EMS locations have been professionally cleaned and sanitised. EMS services continue as usual and may be contacted by calling 911/919. The public is reminded to utilise the service of EMS for emergencies only, especially during this COVID-19 pandemic.”
The Tribune understands that several police officers are among the recent new Grand Bahama cases and some are in quarantine.
Inspector Sonny Miller, chairman of the Police Staff Association, said some officers are fearful.
“Speaking with some of the officers in Grand Bahama, there is heightened alert and the officers are very, very cautious and some might be in fear,” he said. “We must remain focused and committed and this is just one of those times when the officers are placed in a position again to put country above their self. I have gotten reports that members have been affected by it and there is some testing going on now involving officers. A number of officers are in fear because Grand Bahama is a tight-knit area where the officers are closer, unlike us in New Providence that are spread out wider.”
The Ministry of Health could not say up to press time if the 21 cases reported yesterday had a history of travel. Details, such as age and gender of the new cases, were not released up to press time.
The surge in cases came the same day Tourism Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar hit out at critics who knocked the government for its decision to re-open the country’s borders in early July, insisting the rise of COVID-19 cases in the country was not “tourist-related” but “domestic grown” due to Bahamian travel to the US.
On Sunday, the government announced commercial travel by sea and air would be banned tomorrow, except from the European Union, Canada and the United Kingdom, essentially shutting out the country’s largest tourism market - the United States. However Mr D’Aguilar stressed US visitors can still enter the country on private international flights or pleasure vessels, as long as they have a negative PCR test.