By EARYEL BOWLEG
Tribune Staff Reporter
IN view of the number of travellers not complying with the rapid antigen test requirements, a senior physician suggested the country should revisit “some measure of quarantine” until officials can put in place better strategies.
Consultant Physicians Staff Association (CPSA) President Sabriquet Pinder-Butler told The Tribune she thought it was concerning that the country has not been able to fulfill antigen testing requirements on travellers, thus their COVID-19 status is not known.
“I think that if we’re having challenges with the testing, perhaps that should be something that needs to be revisited to ensure that we are not again trying to catch up with cases when they are already in (the) country and we’re not able to track them appropriately,” she said when contacted.
“Not necessarily 14 days, but perhaps some measure of quarantine until we’re able to ascertain appropriate testing.”
At a Ministry of Health press conference on Friday, it was revealed that 46 percent of travellers required to take the rapid antigen test five days after arriving in The Bahamas have not complied with the policy. The ministry’s Senior House Officer Dr Cherita Moxey noted that the figure represents 21,000 people.
Furthermore, the ministry’s Chief Medical Officer Dr Pearl McMillan said 70,000 antigen tests have been performed for travel purposes since November 1. Of the 113 positive cases, she said 58.4 percent or 66 people were tourists who travelled to New Providence, Grand Bahama, Exuma, Abaco, Eleuthera, Bimini and the Berry Islands. She said 34.5 percent of cases or 39 people were returning Bahamians.
She could not say how many of the positive cases had their result confirmed with a PCR test as required by ministry protocols. She also could not say what percentage of COVID-19 cases since November 1 were contacts of positive travel cases.
Bahamian officials ended the 14-day quarantine requirement for travellers in early November 2020. However entry requirements mandate that travellers present a negative COVID-19 PCR swab test, obtain a health travel visa, submit to a daily questionnaire and take a rapid antigen test if staying for more than five days.
During Friday’s press conference it was also noted that the country does not have the capacity for the genomic sequencing that is necessary to determine if more infectious COVID-19 variants, such as the strains found in the United Kingdom and South Africa, are present in the country. Director of the National Reference Laboratory Dr Indira Martin noted that positive COVID-19 samples will have to be sent to an internationally accredited lab to verify the strain of the virus present in a sample.
Yesterday the CPSA president admitted there have been situations in the past in the country where officials did not have the capacity to do certain tests, so there were partnerships with international laboratories to have them done.
She added: “I think once the ministry can connect those ties to make sure that if the need arises, that can be done in the most timely fashion as possible. I think that would assist us greatly. . .”
The new COVID-19 strains are said to be more infectious, but not more deadly.