By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Tribune Chief Reporter
WITH nearly 300 COVID-19 cases recorded over the last several days, a local infectious diseases expert has suggested partial lockdowns have not been an effective tool in stopping the spread of the deadly virus in The Bahamas.
Dr Nikkiah Forbes, director of the National HIV/AIDS and Infectious Disease Programme at the Ministry of Health, told The Tribune yesterday that she is not a fan of partial lockdowns. She said the country may need to sit and ponder whether the measure meets the desired expectation.
“I think that it is safe to say that partial lockdowns may not be effective. It really depends on what people are doing outside of the curfew and restrictive period – on the weekends and after seven,” Dr Forbes said Tuesday.
According to the Ministry of Health, 150 new COVID-19 cases were recorded Monday along with one more death. More than half of these were in New Providence, where 81 new cases were added, while 67 cases had locations pending. There was also one new case in Abaco and an additional case in Andros.
Sunday saw 70 new cases – 68 in the capital, one in Eleuthera and one in the Berry Islands.
There were also 75 new cases on Saturday, including 61 in New Providence, nine in Grand Bahama, two in both Andros and Eleuthera and one in Exuma.
Earlier this month, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis imposed weekend lockdowns and a 7pm nightly curfew on New Providence and Abaco, among other measures, in response to rising cases on these islands. He said the continuance of weekend lockdowns and the 7pm curfew would depend on an improvement of the situation.
However, based on current statistics, it is likely these restrictive measures will continue well into next month. The country’s state of emergency is set to end on October 31.
Asked if she would support another full lockdown for New Providence, Dr Forbes said: “There are still a large amount of cases daily and I would say that cases haven’t gone down in this second wave that we’re seeing. As a matter of fact, we heard in the press conference last week that they’ve just gone up slightly in the last two weeks.
“Now that being said, any restrictive measure that is put in place for a virus that transmits like this, you have to consider the incubation period. You won’t see the results until the end of one or possibly two incubation periods when you’re doing your restrictive measures.
“So, you have to usually give things a chance to see if there is an impact and I say that in general when public health experts make recommendations for restrictions and curfews and lockdowns so to speak.
“Now what I will say as it relates to these current measures, this is not a full lockdown per se. This is a partial lockdown so it’s possible, it’s arguable, I think that it is safe to say that partial lockdowns may not be effective. It really depends on what people are doing outside of the curfew and restrictive period – on the weekends and after seven.”
Dr Forbes continued: “There is little to no movement in the street or in places where one can go to gather restaurants, grocery stores, but during the day people are still moving around and so you have to think about that context when you look at measures to stop the spread of COVID-19.
“A partial lockdown may not be effective. I wouldn’t say that I am fully in support of partial lockdowns. I think if you get to the point where you need to do that or you think you have to give your health system a break. You have to look at the effectiveness of things like that and know that if people are gathering at other times during the day, spread is going to continue.
“I don’t know if the measures will be continued, but you couldn’t really say given the time that passed how impactful it was.”
Dr Forbes said the current circumstances warrant consideration of what has to be done in addition to the current measures in place.
“I will say this and remember when I give you my thoughts on it I can only do that as an infectious diseases consultant, a specialist,” Dr Forbes said when asked if there needed to be a ramp up of restrictive measures.
“If it is that your country is having so much pressure, your health system is under so much pressure, you’re beyond capacity. You’re seeing trends like deaths go up. The hospitalisations go up. You know you’re under siege and cases are going up then you have to think about what do you do in addition to all the regular public health measures you’ve been encouraging. That people should avoid close contact, cover their faces and wash hands, etcetera.
“Sometimes you do have to give your health system a break and sometimes you do have to implement lockdowns.
“Now we’ve heard that that is not supposed to be the first approach, but to be totally honest if things are in such a crisis situation you have to rely on that. You have to look at how you’re going to use it effectively and how you’re going to get the most out of doing such a thing because it’s painful economically and socially.
“I am not a fan of partial lockdowns. I think because they may not be very effective at all and so I think that when we stop and ponder for a minute and say ‘okay is it worth it if it’s not doing what it is intended to do?’
“People need to look at that more and certainly we’ll have other guidelines, but we do need to stop the spread because we see that there is a terrible impact on the health system.”
Princess Margaret Hospital’s bed capacity is being stretched thin amid the health crisis. A 28-bed tent facility has been set up on the compound by Samaritan’s Purse to help alleviate the issue.