By LEANDRA ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
A SENIOR physician has said the government might have to toughen COVID-19 travel restrictions if The Bahamas sees a surge of infections as a result of the recent holiday celebrations coupled with a new COVID-19 strain already spreading in some parts of the world.
Consultant Physicians Staff Association (CPSA) President Sabriquet Pinder-Butler told The Tribune yesterday it’s a watch-and-wait game for doctors.
While stressing that workers have already “mentally prepared” themselves for each case scenario, Dr Pinder-Butler also said if COVID conditions were to worsen in the country, the government might have to revisit certain restrictions, specifically relating to travel.
“So certainly, the travel restrictions or protocols are always something that’s not an easy thing to make determinations on, especially from the view of The Bahamas just re-opening,” she said.
“But again, we have to also look at those things and balance it with the health of the nation. I think that certainly if we’re seeing further increases or seeing an impact from other strains of COVID or COVID in general, I think it’s something the Ministry of Health and the government would have to look into perhaps tightening certain restrictions as it relates to travel,” she said.
She added: “But having said that, I think we must also be mindful because we also have inter-island travel and certain things are certainly not in place for persons coming from other islands and we know that that sometimes also creates loopholes for other things coming into the country.
“…So, I think that’s why we have to watch very carefully to see what’s happening because if we realise that we’re having increase in cases and other countries are having challenges then we might have to revisit (what) we have put in place to protect the Bahamian residents and to make sure that we’re able to survive beyond COVID.”
Her comments come after the Progressive Liberal Party task force called on the government to adopt “more proactive and transparent” COVID-19 policies to safeguard the country against the new threat.
The mutation, which was first spotted in the UK, has already been detected in more than 30 countries – including the US.
“Given that a significant portion of our visitors come from the United States, and that there is robust travel of Bahamians to and from the United States, the government of The Bahamas must move quickly to protect our country from a third wave that could bring great suffering,” the PLP task force said in a statement Tuesday.
Recommendations made by the group includes the government widely consulting with the medical and business communities on the new strain, revising the current travel protocols as necessary to reduce the likelihood of imported cases and ensuring that local hospitals are prepared to isolate any potential cases of the new virus among other things.
In response to the new infectious strain, some nations have tightened restrictions and even issued travel bans. The UK announced a national lockdown on Monday to combat further spread of the mutation.
Local health officials here have already said it’s only a matter of time before the new strain reaches the country’s shores.
Dr Pinder-Butler said it’s possible The Bahamas may have already had cases of the new infectious COVID-19 strain which have not yet been confirmed.
However, the CPSA president said it’s encouraging that the new strain does not appear to be more deadly.
“I think at this particular time when we look at what we’ve been seeing in other countries with other strains, we’ve not necessarily seen that there’s been any increase in deaths...which is a good thing even though it sounds to be a bit more infectious so meaning persons can catch it easier,” she said.
For her part, Bahamas Nurses Union President Amancha Williams also said nurses are keeping a close eye on the situation.
However, she said, it is important that everyone does their part and continue practising the health protocols to help keep the new strain at bay and also, prevent further COVID-19 spread.
Ms Williams told this newspaper: “We’ve not let our guards down. We’re still aware that all of these things are still happening and around us and we’re just a little dot on the map so we know that... (but) we’re praying that it have a different shift and just like we never had the Ebola, there’s a possibility that we could not have the (new COVID) strain also, so let’s keep moving and let’s keep praying and exercising and following the guidelines of the healthcare that provides for the public and that’s the most important thing.”