Limited Testing Meant Number Underestimated


Dr Nikkiah Forbes


Tribune Senior Reporter


INFECTIOUS disease expert Dr Nikkiah Forbes says The Bahamas could have already had more than 100 cases of COVID-19 in late March when only a few infections had been officially confirmed.

The Tribune reported yesterday how the true number of COVID-19 cases in The Bahamas is estimated to be many times higher than the confirmed tally, according to three international groups that have created epidemiological models of the virus.

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 in the Bahamas far exceeds the confirmed number of cases.

ICL and IHME researchers estimate that on March 22, a day when the country had confirmed just four cases of the virus, there were about 453 or 118 cases.

Asked if she believes the country could have had more than 100 cases by that time, Dr Forbes said cases “could have been that high”.

“I could certainly tell you that the number of diagnoses were less than the number of cases,” she said.

“If we accept that testing capacity was not what it is today, then if testing was more extensive we may have had more confirmed cases. The fact of the matter is confirmed COVID-19 cases everywhere, including in The Bahamas, are always lower than the actual number of cases, always. That could only be the case when you consider that some people are asymptomatic and may not have had a test. We have to look at it like that.”

Nonetheless, Dr Forbes said international models can offer flawed analysis for small countries.

“What we have to remember is that small populations, they’re not always the best fit for the models,” she said. “This is something we see with other diseases. But here is the thing. I absolutely agree, we have to remember that the testing capacity was not what it is today and that testing was prioritised for the sickest symptomatic people in March and so, without a doubt the numbers then would have to be an underestimate. Do the models fit? That remains to be seen. Models aren’t built for small populations usually.”

On Wednesday, Health Minister Renward Wells defended the country’s response to the health crisis, insisting that testing has increased “dramatically” in recent months.

“Mr Speaker, we went from being able to do some nearly 300 tests in the country in July to being able to do almost 1,000 tests a day in the country,” he stressed in Parliament on Wednesday. “As a matter of fact, about three days ago when we had 151 cases – that was as a result of 900 tests in one day. That’s on the testing side.”

More than 20,000 tests have been completed as of September 30. At the end of April, just over 1,200 tests had been completed, according to the Ministry of Health.


ohdrap4 4 months, 3 weeks ago

They could have said that from day 1. But instead they made people believe lockdown would protect us from the virus.

This nonsense of flattening the curve just makes the outbreak longer.

Now there are all the unemployed people who cannot pay bills.

We used to think lawyers made bad politicians. Try doctors!!!!


ThisIsOurs 4 months, 3 weeks ago

true there was alot of positive PR misinformation...and it continues up to today with the PM saying we're nearing the end of the 2nd wave at a time when triple digit cases are being reported daily.

We're opening in October, expect cases to quadruple. Which means more people will die. As long as they make decisions with full knowledge of the possible consequences


whogothere 4 months, 3 weeks ago

Cases won’t explode when they open borders. They have exploded already. It’s done we ll approach herd immunity soon and expect viral collapse. It’s happened over and over again with every hotspot. Look at Bimini look at grand Bahamas. If cases do explode it’s because rapid testing has been deployed and more asymptomatic are being picked up, without death increases as demonstrated in Florida. We re not locking down because the reality is the vast majority have mild out comes and up to 70% may be so mild they don t even know they have it. World has been paralyzed by fear, when the paralysis is worse then thing that frightened them...if you looked at your toothbrush under a microscope what’s living there would be frightening, but then end of the day if you stop brushing your teeth you re going to have bigger problems down the road and the microbes that live don t exactly do much harm...covid19 for the working age population is not a threat...I d say there has been more Kids hospitalized or murdered by domestic violence and crime than of COVID in the last 3 months...Children with their entire lives ahead of them...the narrative has got change on this thing...


alfalfa 4 months, 3 weeks ago

At the rate of twenty thousand tests in seven months(roughly 3,000 per month), it will take us approximately ten years to test our population. I have the greatest respect for Dr. Forbes, and the work that she is doing, but the numbers are pointing a real lack of effort and concern by the government in attacking the testing issue, or formulating a plan to successfully co-exist with the virus and bring our country back to some degree of normalcy.


alfalfa 4 months, 3 weeks ago

Not to forget, that the government is not funding or promoting this testing. People are footing the costs, of and making the decision to be tested on their own.


Economist 4 months, 3 weeks ago

we need to be able to test significantly more. Early on (April) The Bahamas had the opportunity to purchase (at cost) 45,000 tests from Cayman. They had 100,000 for sale as they had purchased 200,000 from South Korea of the "gold standard" tests.

Bermuda bought 35,000 and Barbados purchased 20,000. The Bahamas, under the direction of Dr Dahl Regis, decided that they were too expensive.

You can fly from Cayman, Bermuda and Barbados to Europe and not have to quarantine but if you fly from The Bahams you must quarantine.

Today Barbados has 7 active cases, Bermuda 4 and Cayman 1.

Wonder where the Europeans are going for their vacation? Not The Bahamas for sure.


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