'Only a matter of time' before Bahamas identifies its first coronavirus case

Health Minister Dr Duane Sands.

Health Minister Dr Duane Sands.


Tribune Senior Reporter


IT is only a matter of time before The Bahamas identifies its first case of the coronavirus, Health Minister Dr Duane Sands said yesterday.

After the World Health Organisation declared the COVID-19 a pandemic, he said this country has moved beyond focusing on preventing the virus and instead to focusing on identification, isolation and control. Recognising that healthcare workers are disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus, Dr Sands said the government will increase the death benefit of healthcare workers by 500 percent––an additional $50,000 or so.

He also revealed that staff of the Fleming Street Clinic evacuated the facility yesterday when someone suggested a patient had contracted the virus. Expressing frustration with fake news, he said the person who made the remark––a suspected clinic employee––will be fired if found.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis said officials will monitor price gouging amid reports that prices of hand sanitizers have exploded in recent days.

“If we detect any (price gouging), we’ll deal with it appropriately, but we will not tolerate it, absolutely not,” he told reporters after touring the New Providence Ecology Park.

The comments all came as Bahamians ramped up preparations for a disease that has already burdened healthcare systems of countries experiencing outbreaks.

The University of the Bahamas cancelled a coronavirus meeting as a cautionary measure against large meetings and encouraged faculty to use online applications to deliver content and communicate with students. Dr Minnis activated a National Coordination Committee comprising government officials and representatives from health, finance, tourism and education sectors. Meanwhile, items like paper towels, disinfectant sprays, water and hand sanitizers continued to fly off shelves across stores in the country.

Dr Sands, speaking to nurses at the Ministry of Health on Meeting Street, said: “Jamaica confirmed they have a case, St Bart’s got a case, Dominican Republic got a case, so…I’m not speaking negatively about my country but I am saying that it’s just a matter of time before we get the first case. With the declaration of a pandemic now, our focus changes from trying to prevent importation to identification, isolation and control.”

On the death benefit increase for healthcare workers, Dr Sands said: “Some might say that’s not enough, but the challenge is we have to be able to promise something we can deliver. The expectation is, given the collapsing (US) stock market, cruise ships having problems, airlines having problems, this is going to be a major financial hit to The Bahamas and nobody is going to come to rescue us other than us.”

Dr Sands said there is a need for healthcare workers to volunteer to deal with COVID-19 patients. It was suggested during the meeting that insufficient nurses have been volunteering. One nurse admonished her colleagues to volunteer for the service.

“There is no way that we as this small unit can stretch ourselves as the front-line, middle-line and the back-line, we really need our colleagues,” she said. “It could be by mother, your mother, your aunt, your sister’s name on the beds. Some of us, we’re not just coworkers, we’re family. There’s no way we can sit down and say ‘I’m not touching this patient because of XYZ.’ We knew when we got into this profession what we’re getting into.”

Another nurse complained that there is difficulty identifying an isolation area at Carmichael Road Detention Centre for potential CVOID-19 patients.

“I think,” Dr Sands responded, “you have a peculiar and unique challenge because the Detention Centre has a serious challenge with TB and managing patients with TB. The fact that you don’t have an isolation area is unacceptable…Let’s deal with the issue of the Detention Centre off-line please…”

Videos circulated yesterday of anxious people standing outside the Fleming Street Clinic amid a false claim that someone who showed up with the coronavirus.

Dr Sands said: “Somebody would’ve said this person could have that thing and before we know it, the entire staff break off running. Next thing I know, we got videos on social media, Facebook. I ask you, suppose it was my HIV status, or your pregnancy status or gonorrhea or syphilis or whatever. I think we need to understand that no matter what, patient confidentiality even in this era has to be maintained. If I ever found out who it was that created that fear, I will see to it that you are fired. I don’t think that there is any justification for violating patient confidentiality at any time. If you are afraid, call and say ‘I don’t think I can do this,’ but to abandon a patient, to leave a patient, is a violation of the oath that we take. I understand fear but fear that is misguided is inappropriate.”

Dr Sands said officials are still trying to determine how many ventilators, oxygen tanks and other key materials are in the country. He said the country has about 400 diagnostic tests right now and has just ordered 500 more.

He added he does not believe the coronavirus will be an “Armageddon scenario” leading to millions of deaths around the world.

“There will be thousands of deaths, many thousands of infections…but if we work together as health professionals I believe that we can protect our population, protect our country and move on, but we cannot unless everyone buys into that,” he said.

Meanwhile, Robert Sands, Baha Mar senior vice president, discussed with The Tribune the impact the coronavirus is having on the resort’s business.

He said the resort has seen a slight decrease in advanced bookings and increasing inquiries about its coronavirus protocols.

He said spring break and Easter bookings remain strong.


Well_mudda_take_sic 2 years, 5 months ago


Sands is telling us it's only a matter of time before the grossly incompetent Minnis-led FNM government is able to begin conducting a serious and proper testing plan to ascertain the extent to which COVID-19 has already spread on New Providence. And the operative word in my preceding sentence is "begin". They haven't even closed UB yet!

Like they did before and after Hurrican Dorian, Minnis and his fellow cabinet ministers have simply thrown their hands up in the air and left every Bahamian to fend for him or herself at a time of national emergency. Here we once again see Minnis not knowing whether he's headed east or west. In addition to having no sense of direction, he is much too easily overwhelmed and always confused. It's impossible to govern, especially in a time of crisis, when you sorely lack the leadership and management skills necessary to do so.


sealice 2 years, 5 months ago

No he's saying it's only a matter of time before a handful of haitians get it and then the entire island of Nassau freaks TF out!!

But i hear the people in Centreville using leaves to wipe dey ass are the lucky ones cus ain no one buy up all the leaves on the trees yet.....


tmoore 2 years, 5 months ago

As a Bahamian abroad, one of the most ghastly challenges is the ignorance of many Bahamians. The levels of prejudice and discrimination, amidst the simple lack of the ability to act responsibly always shines itself during times of challenge. While it is obvious that the government has its challenges; so do the people. The people have the greatest responsibility to themselves. It is to educate themselves. To become aware of the disease, and how to best protect themselves. I currently live with my children in a country that has been infected. So, I have taken the time to educate my children on how to best protect themselves. I have taken the precautions as a parent to purchase the necessary and available products to protect my family. I am no different than anyone else. It is my responsibility to protect me and mine...Like it is yours Bahamas. Stop complaining about the government. Stop creating division when death lingers in the air. Stop creating fear exasperated by ignorance. Be better than you have been. Be the change that you want to see... Read Bahamas and prepare yourself against the enemy of this Virus. Don't be its friend, by spreading fake information, propaganda and division. Haitian, Jamaican, Bahamian.....ALL BLACK PEOPLE... Wake up and realize that we all live together on this challenged earth and one day we will all die. Decide who you are gonna be while you live..... So.. Wash your hands for 45 seconds with soap before rinsing. Use antibacterial hand gel constantly between washings. No hand shaking, but maybe instead head nods "hello". Stand at least 5 feet away from the person in front of you. Cough in your elbow, not in your hands...Wear a mask if they are available; if not face scarf like the old folks did... and if you feel sick, isolate yourself and contact medical help. Be Responsible Bahamas.... This is a world wide threat... And you are a part of this world... Be prepared!


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