By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Senior Reporter
THE true number of COVID-19 cases in the Bahamas is scores higher than the confirmed tally, according to three international research groups that have created separate epidemiological models of the virus.
One group estimated that on a single day in August when the country confirmed only double-digit numbers of cases, the actual number of infections was 14 times higher.
The models of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), the Imperial College London (ICL) and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) offer different estimates but reach the same conclusion: the number of COVID-19 cases far exceeds the confirmed number of cases.
The research groups have been influential to how policymakers have responded to the pandemic around the world. Their models consider confirmed cases, confirmed deaths and testing rates and they reflect a range of assumptions and epidemiological knowledge of researchers.
The models were collated by Our World In Data, a scientific online publication.
The data suggests the Bahamas was experiencing a surge of COVID-19 cases far earlier than previously known. On March 22, for example, when the country confirmed just four cases of the virus, the ICL, a public research university in London, estimated there were 453 cases while the IHME, an independent global health research centre at the University of Washington, estimated there were 118 cases.
On August 10 in the middle of the second wave of COVID-19, the IHME and ICL estimated there were 666 and 210 cases respectively while the LSHTM estimated there were more than twice the confirmed number of infections.
Just recently, on September 21, the IHME and ICL estimated there were 236 and 195 infections, nearly four and three times the confirmed number of infections.
“Two things are clear from this chart: all models agree that true infections far outnumber confirmed cases,” wrote Oxford University and Our World in Data researcher Charlie Giattino. “But the models disagree by how much, and how infections have changed over time.”
“A key limitation in our understanding of the COVID-19 pandemic is that we do not know the true number of infections. Instead, we only know of infections that have been confirmed by a test – the confirmed cases. But because many infected people never get tested, we know that confirmed cases are only a fraction of true infections.”
The models do not give estimates of the cumulative number of infections per country.
While local health officials did not offer comment on these estimates up to press time yesterday, the Ministry of Health released data showing 119 COVID-19 cases were confirmed on Tuesday, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 4,022.
The new cases include 103 in New Providence, nine in Abaco, four in Grand Bahama, two in Exuma and one in Andros.
The ministry confirmed four new deaths: an 86-year-old woman, a 50-year-old man and a 55-year-old woman, all New Providence residents that died on September 28th; the death of a 53-year-old woman on September 23rd was also confirmed.
Ninety-five people have now died from COVID-19 according to the official statistics, with fifteen deaths under investigations.
One hundred people are now hospitalised.
Last night, the Ministry of Health reported 101 additional cases, pushing the COVID-19 toll to 4,123. Another death was also recorded after a 75-year-old man from New Providence died on September 29, bringing the confirmed death toll to 92.