By LEANDRA ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country has risen to nine, Health Minister Dr Duane Sands announced yesterday after revealing that four more people in New Providence had tested positive for highly contagious disease.
One of the new COVID-19 patients had a recent travel history, Dr Sands said. The four new cases are at home in isolation and do not need hospital care at this time, he added.
“The most recently four confirmed cases are in New Providence,” he said during a press conference at the Ministry of Health. “Only one had recent travel history and that case had traveled to the Dominican Republic on the 13th of March.
“All of the most recently confirmed four cases are in home isolation and they are being closely monitored by healthcare professionals,” he said. “They do not require hospitalisation at this time.”
His comments came after officials revealed on Tuesday that a woman in Grand Bahama with no recent travel history had tested positive for the infectious disease, becoming the country’s first confirmed case of COVID-19 outside of New Providence. Up to press time, there was only one confirmed case in Grand Bahama.
Health consultant to the Office of the Prime Minister, Dr Merceline Dahl-Regis, said the new cases are not linked to the previous cases, but noted that two of the patients are close friends.
“The new cases are not related to the first case…,” she said.
“They’re not, except two of the cases are related in friendship and companionship, but the other new cases….So, there’s five. The one in Grand Bahama is not related to the index case.
“(Of) the four new cases, two of the cases are very very close friends,” she said.
Meanwhile, as it relates to the other COVID-19 patients, health officials said yesterday that all remain in stable condition.
“The first case has been discharged through hospital and health officials continue to follow the condition of the three other COVID-19 positive cases in New Providence (that were previously reported),” Dr Sands noted yesterday.
“And the single case in Grand Bahama, who all remain in isolation at home and do not require hospitalisation at this time, they are in stable condition.”
Dr Sands added: “Contact tracing is aggressively underway by the MOH surveillance unit in New Providence and Grand Bahama. The surveillance unit has already contacted the large majority of those who were in contact with the initial case.
“The MOH surveillance unit will use an advanced approach to increase the number of contacts reached in the shortest possible time. We continue to closely monitor patients in their home quarantine environment.”
With over 2,000 testing kits currently on the island, Dr Sands said nearly 200 people have been tested for COVID-19 so far.
“At this time, 175 people have been tested in the Bahamas for COVID-19 following agreed international protocols,” he noted. “To date, we have some 2,300 testing kits on the island. More than 60 ventilators are here and more are on the way to increase our current capacity.
“Thousands of PPE (personal protective equipment) kits have been ordered to reduce the supplies that we had already had in stock; 3,000 additional are expected on the ground on Monday and a further 4,000 will be here by the end of next week.”
In the meantime, the health minister is urging members of the public to take the necessary health precautions to prevent the further spread of the disease.
He said: “COVID-19 remains a very serious threat. Around the world, more than 23,000 people have died from this virus. It is very important to address you today about prevention and it’s important that you listen to and follow this advice.
“Ignoring this advice could lead to you contracting the virus and getting sick and possibly dying. Ignoring this advice could lead to the spread of it to your families and friends and they could get sick and die.
“There is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19.”
In an effort to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis last week imposed several stringent measures in the country, including a 9pm-5am curfew until March 31.
However, on Monday, the curfew was extended to 24 hours.
Attorney General Carl Bethel said the curfew could be extended for at least another 14 or 30 days to further clamp down on the virus.
However, he said the decision would be based on the advice of medical professionals.
Asked by reporters yesterday if health officials felt the curfew needed to be extended, Dr Sands replied: “We have made the determination that we’re going to monitor this situation very, very closely. At this point in time, we will advise Cabinet colleagues, the prime minister and all stakeholders how we believe the impact of the initiatives, the interventions have been.
“So, I think it’s premature at this point for us to tell of the position the MOH and health team. Every single day, we will advise those in authority as to what our realistic thoughts are on how this whole thing is going, so stay tuned.”
Symptoms of COVID-19 include cough, fever, tiredness and difficulty breathing.
Health officials say if you believe you have COVID-19 symptoms, do not immediately go to a hospital or doctor. Instead call the national hotline at 376-9350, 376-9387 or 376-9357 or a doctor for further instructions.