The US departures area at Lynden Pindling International Airport looked pretty deserted yesterday. Photo: Shawn Hanna/Tribune Staff
By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Senior Reporter
DEPUTY Chief Medical Officer Dr Delon Brennen said the 61-year-old woman with the novel coronavirus visited the Fleming Street Clinic last week, prompting Ministry of Health officials to encourage some clinic staff to self-quarantine.
However, he said the woman’s visit is not what prompted the commotion captured in a viral video on Wednesday when staff fled the clinic amid panic over the disease - he said that was a separate incident, with the patient testing negative for the virus in that case.
The news came as the reality of the global coronavirus crisis began to bite home for Bahamians. Some restaurants and tourism businesses now plan to shut their doors. Churches are considering suspending gatherings. Jail visits have been indefinitely suspended and major events like the Bahamas Carnival festival have been postponed.
The US Departures Terminal of the Lynden Pindling Airport provided an eerie glimpse of the impact, with few travellers in the facility during the usually busy season. Up to press time, the first known person in the country with COVID-19 remained the only confirmed or suspected case, according to the Ministry of Health.
Dr Brennen said officials are still tracing her contacts and have not encountered any contact who is showing symptoms of the disease. It is not clear how many of her contacts have been asked to isolate themselves or how many people have been tested for the virus since Sunday’s announcement of her case.
In an interview with Eyewitness News last night, Dr Brennen said the ministry has about 25 people associated with her on its radar and is putting her contacts into self-isolation.
“(The approximately 25 contacts) encompasses not just the patient’s family themselves, we’re talking healthcare providers involved with her care, both in the out-patient and in-patient setting, so it’s a growing number of people but so far we haven’t found anyone with specific symptoms,” he said.
“We continue to place any contacts with the index patient into self-quarantine. We continue to say in larger concentric circles we know who her immediate contacts were and as we get in contact with them and place them into quarantine we do some testing of contracts and if we don’t find an index patient in that grouping we find out who they may have been in contact with or even widen the circle for her to say where else might you have been so that we can start to address those other areas as well.”
Officials closed the Fleming Street clinic yesterday for cleaning and a meeting with staff.
“Individual staff members (of the Flemming Street Clinic) who may have been in contact with the patient but not appropriately wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) are being encouraged to self-quarantine,” Dr Brennen told The Tribune yesterday morning. “However, those who were not in contact with the patient or wore appropriate PPE do not need to quarantine at this time.”
During a press conference on Monday, World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Ghebreysus complained that insufficient urgency to escalate testing and isolation is harming the fight against the coronavirus.
For now, Health Minister Dr Duane Sands said yesterday, Bahamian officials will continue following the consensus view of public health experts on when and who to test for the disease.
“The technical experts, the entire technical team in conjunction with Pan-American Health Organisation looks at the various approaches to testing,” he said. “At this point, we are still following the advice of Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus and WHO. He said test test test but when you look at the recommendations it is to test everybody with symptoms. What defines symptoms is evolving. If I have a sore throat, does that mean you have COVID? This will evolve as it has evolved everywhere else but we have to maintain our capacity. If you do 200 tests today and have none tomorrow, what you gon’ do? As we get more tests that will give us the option of liberating the approach. Right now we are testing based on the consensus view of public health experts.”