By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Senior Reporter
MORE than a dozen staff at the Elizabeth Estates Clinic have been told to self-quarantine as a precautionary measure after they were exposed to a person with COVID-19, Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Delon Brennen said yesterday.
Fourteen people at the clinic were asked to self-isolate even though protocols were in place and followed, he said. It is not clear which confirmed case went to the clinic and when.
The news comes as the number of people in quarantine exploded to 278 on Monday, up from 120 on Sunday. The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases remained at 14 up to press time.
Health Minister Dr Duane Sands reiterated in the House of Assembly that officials believe the country is at the beginning of a surge in novel coronavirus cases. He spoke before the House of Assembly and the Senate debated and passed a resolution to extend Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis’ curfew and emergency orders to April 8.
Dr Sands said officials are performing statistical analysis to model when the COVID-19 outbreak will peak and how many people are likely to be infected and die.
He said the government began procuring personal protection equipment many weeks ago so the country now has an adequate supply of PPE, including “N95 masks, regular surgical masks, visors, hazmat suits, gloves, etc.”
He added: “We have just confirmed an order for another half-a-million N95 masks, we will get another half-a-million confirmed later on this week. We have in stock enough personal protection equipment for all of the people on the frontline.”
He said beds have also been identified, as a seven-bed, negative pressure special modular facility outside Princess Margaret Hospital was expected to be completed yesterday to join resources at clinics, Doctors Hospital facilities and Family Island sites.
Recommendations on masks have been evolving throughout the COVID-19 crisis, with experts increasingly saying masks can be a beneficial protection in the fight against the virus.
Dr Sands, however, said the small supply of masks in the country meant only people on the frontline should acquire them.
“These masks protect people on the frontline and if we do not protect them they will not be around to protect you so we cannot recommend because these are in short supply all around the world that these should be used for the ordinary person,” he said. “However, what is clear is that any protection, even if they do not provide a whole lot of protection, is not a bad idea. So even if you make a homemade covering for your nose and mouth, so the answer to the question is while we cannot support the average person anywhere in the world using an N95 mask, certainly we are not going to discourage the use of any type of protection.”
Dr Sands sought to contextualise the highly contagious COVID-19, noting while more than 35,000 people have died because of the virus — which emerged in December 2019 in Wuhan, China — worldwide 119,000 people have died of influenza this year, 411,000 have died of HIV and 612,000 have died of alcohol related issues.
However officials have stressed the need to take precautions against COVID-19 because it is a new virus and there is no vaccine or known treatment for the disease. The quick spread of the disease can place a strain on healthcare systems due to a deluge of patients and scarce equipment needed to treat those with severe respiratory issues which develop as a result.