By TANYA SMITH-CARTWRIGHT
BAHAMIAN health officials are quarantining returning residents from abroad even if they test negative for COVID-19 an extra precaution against false negatives and a spike in positive cases lately.
Many Bahamian travellers are up in arms because, despite testing negative for the contagious virus, they find themselves still being quarantined by the government after travel. This week, a plane full of Grand Bahama travellers—who fled the island ahead of its two week lockdown—touched down in New Providence and were placed in a government quarantine centre. Passengers arriving from other destinations were asked to self-quarantine.
“This is ridiculous and I am not quarantining”, said Rico Ferguson, a returning resident from the United States who was asked to self-quarantine. “I arrive in Nassau, they take my temperature and it’s normal. They know that I have a negative test, so now what? I have to sit at home from doing work for two weeks? Nope. I am not doing it. I do not have COVID and I am not going to add to this ridiculous situation. The government needs to go after all of these people partying all over the place and quarantine them. I am a businessman and I don’t have time or money to lose.”
Dr Nikkiah Forbes, director of the government’s Infectious Disease Programme, said the enforcement or request of quarantine after a negative test is a simple precaution.
“Well, it is an additional precaution given with what we are seeing right now with returning residents and travellers,” said Dr Forbes.
“A test is only as good as the day it is done. There can be false negatives so since we are seeing additional spikes, including people with negative tests, that is just an additional precaution we are taking.”
On Sunday, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis announced a ban on commercial sea and air travel, except from the United Kingdom, Canada and the European Union. Private flights and pleasure boats/yachts can also enter from other countries, including the United States.
This comes after spikes in COVID cases, specifically in Grand Bahama.
Resident Melvern Taylor said he was asked to quarantine at home and he will comply.
“The strange thing is that one person told me to self-quarantine and another person told my sister that it was mandatory she go with them to a government facility to quarantine. I don’t get it, but that is what she was told so we got separated. I have her phone charger and her phone is dead, so I have not heard from her. This is insane, but if this is what we have to do then so be it,” Mr Taylor said.
Unfortunately for Debbie Armbrister, with the borders closed to commercial travel, she is stuck in Florida with her husband’s body, unable to come back to Nassau to bury him.
“This is the worst thing that I have ever experienced,” she said. “I guess this could not be helped, but the emotional stress is overwhelming. We came over to see the doctor and my husband died the day before the borders were closed. I am not sure how we are going to get out of here, but I am trying every source. So, I am dealing with the grief of the loss of my husband and also dealing with being stuck here. I’m trying to hold on to myself right now; trying to keep things in perspective.”
Cabinet held an emergency meeting yesterday evening where health officials gave a presentation to the government of COVID-19 trends and risks.