By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Senior Reporter
MINISTRY of Health officials noticed a significant increase in confirmed COVID-19 cases from travellers about three to four weeks ago, acting Chief Medical Officer Dr Phillip Swain said yesterday.
“About three to four weeks ago during our weekly review, the Ministry of Health noted changes in the source of our numbers for reported positive cases,” Dr Swain said at a press conference yesterday.
“We noticed that a greater proportion of our cases were among travellers ranging from 30 to 40 percent. It was at that time that we began conversations with fellow government agencies on steps to tighten the net around testing requirements to enter the country.”
“The review of available data indicated that a reduction from five days to three days prior to travel was acceptable to both sides of the coin and that the movement to accept only RT-PCR would be best given the options available. Analysis of the reduction in time of testing before travel suggested that we could exclude up to 50 percent of persons who had tested positive in the five days after travelling to The Bahamas.”
Health officials also acknowledged that a significant number of healthcare workers are in isolation or quarantine due to exposure from the virus.
Health Minister Dr Michael Darville said officials are monitoring what’s happening around the world to make certain that adequate numbers of healthcare workers are working on the frontlines.
“It is moving in the direction where individuals who are vaccinated, who were exposed to COVID-19 and who subsequently become positive whether it’s a rapid antigen test or RT-PCR test may be eligible to have a shorter isolation time and get back to the affairs of the hospital in a shorter period,” he said. “We are seeing other countries around the world doing it and for us with limited healthcare resources and manpower resources we have to be innovative in our approach, but like I said before we understand the potential shortage.”
Dr Darville said the government will bring 12 additional doctors on board next week.
“We are also in the final stages of recruitment exercise to add an additional 50 healthcare nurses to the healthcare system,” he said, adding officials hope contracts will be finalised by next week.
He also said the government has negotiated with the University of The Bahamas to temporarily acquire the “Grosvenor nursing building” and that a contract will be awarded next week for renovations to transform the building into a “much needed infectious disease ward to aid in the fight against COVID-19.”
At completion, he said, officials expect to accommodate additional 100 COVID-19 cases should the need arise. He said this will free up the South Beach Clinic, allowing the clinic to provide primary healthcare services for the community.
Dr Swain said that so far data shows the fourth wave of COVID-19 is affecting a “slightly younger demographic” than earlier waves, with people ages 20-29 impacted the most.
He said a significant amount of community spread is occurring in home settings and work places, suggesting people are “out and about” and not adhering to protocols.
He said to date 10,299 booster shots have been given.
He also agreed that churches have agreed to operate at 25 percent capacity in view of the surge in cases.
“This concession is greatly appreciated and we know will augur well for protecting congregants during this challenging period,” he said.
This comes as health officials recorded 65 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, with three additional deaths. The deceased patients were all New Providence residents who died between December 20-28. They included two women—ages 54 and 60—and a 42-year-old man.
The cases pushed the country’s death count from the virus to 716.
The country has recorded 889 new cases of COVID-19 since December 23, with Christmas Day alone accounting for a record-breaking 330 infections.
The confirmed virus toll now stands at 24,269 with 1,574 active cases. At last report, 22 people were in hospital with the virus.