By LEANDRA ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
WITH several large gatherings seen over the Easter holiday weekend, Health Minister Renward Wells said yesterday officials are hoping the social events do not lead to an uptick in coronavirus cases.
Mr Wells spoke after several videos made the rounds on social media showing large crowds at local businesses and even at one major resort, despite repeated warnings from government and health officials.
On Monday, health officials recorded seven new positive cases, pushing the nation’s total count to 9,270. The holiday weekend saw 92 new COVID-19 infections being recorded, with 28 additional cases confirmed for Thursday, 35 on Good Friday, 16 on Saturday and 13 on Sunday.
Yesterday, Mr Wells said the rising COVID-19 numbers continue to concern health officials, who are closely monitoring the uptick in positive cases and hospitalisations – particularly on New Providence, Grand Bahama, Abaco and Eleuthera.
This also comes amid mounting fears that the Bahamas could be on the brink of a third wave of COVID-19.
Mr Wells said while there is no evidence to suggest the country has entered its third wave, health teams are constantly “assessing the data” for further confirmation.
However, he said additional details will be provided by the Ministry of Health when it holds a press conference today.
“There’s been lots of concern among the health officials as to the increase in numbers and the increase in hospitalisations,” he told reporters before going to a Cabinet meeting.
“The Prime Minister you would remember said at the airport when we were receiving the vaccines from PAHO… he was asking the Bahamian people during the course of this holiday to exercise additional due diligence in regard to the health protocols because we had seen the increase in the numbers.
“As you know this virus has a 14-day incubation period so when you began to see an uptick, you know in 14 days that there’s the potential for greater numbers and so we are and have been concerned in health and we have been reminding the Bahamian people to adhere to the health protocols especially during the holiday that we just simply went through.
“There was lots of activity and lots and lots of activity and so we are hoping at the end of the day that what we saw does not (lead) to increasing numbers.”
The recent social gatherings coupled with the high COVID-19 infections over last several weeks have also sparked fears about the possibility of more restrictions being added for certain islands.
Asked if health officials have recommended tighter COVID measures for certain communities, Mr Wells said: “I would say that we are going to assess the data. We are going to be looking at the data and obviously, the Cabinet of The Bahamas, the Prime Minister would speak to any potential move in future as to how the country is going to go.
“Because obviously, the Prime Minister is an individual who’s never afraid to make hard choices and decisions and so at the end of the day, we’re going to look at the data that we’re seeing. (Today the Ministry of) Health will give us a better assessment because we have been assessing the data.”
Given the rising COVID-19 numbers, Mr Wells said it has become more crucial for Bahamians to follow all of the health guidelines in order to prevent a surge of new infections.
He said the situation also applies to those in the political arena.
“As a people, we need to remember we are still in this fight,” he said. “We are still in a war and the prime minister used the analogy that we’re in a race and we’re in a race to vaccinate our people faster that COVID could spread.
“And so, at every stage we need to be responsible at all times and I can say I know there’s been a lot of political activity. I know I had activity on Friday. Mine was a drive through by the way. There was more than 2,000 meals given out by me alone in Bamboo Town and I saw other activities and events, political events, with people gathering.”
In recent weeks, both the Free National Movement and the Progressive Liberal Party has faced heavy criticism for hosting campaign gatherings which featured more than 20 people. Current rules restrict social gatherings on New Providence.
Asked if health officials will be closely monitoring large political gatherings: Mr Wells replied: “Yes, and we are asking that even if you’re going to be doing campaigning that you do it in the ambit of the health protocols. I believe right now you’re not supposed to have more than 20 persons gathering together in one particular place.
“Twenty individuals is more than enough to do a door-to-door campaigning but you need to be able to social distance, wear your mask, hand sanitise and so there’s opportunities within the ambit of the protocols to be able to have your political activities but it has to be done in a very responsible manner and responsible way.”