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Why Aren’T They Testing People? Questions Raised Over Why Large Numbers Are Not Taking Day Five Test

DOCTOR Michael Darville, co-chair of the PLP’s COVID-19 task force, and PLP leader Philip “Brave” Davis.

DOCTOR Michael Darville, co-chair of the PLP’s COVID-19 task force, and PLP leader Philip “Brave” Davis.

By RASHAD ROLLE

Tribune Senior Reporter

rrolle@tribunemedia.net

DOCTOR Michael Darville, the co-chair of the Progressive Liberal Party’s COVID-19 task force, says the revelation that 46 percent of travellers to The Bahamas have not taken the COVID-19 antigen test after five days in the country is alarming and should “greatly concern” Bahamians.

“It was a shock to me and shows even though these protocols are in place, the government is not ready for prime-time,” the senator said yesterday. “It’s easy to talk about these things but the truth of the matter revolves around how these policies function on the ground.”

PLP leader Philip “Brave” Davis also weighed in on the issue last night, saying in a statement to The Tribune that the government needed to fix its lax enforcement of the testing regime.

The five-day antigen test for travellers is one rule officials implemented last year to prevent a COVID-19 outbreak.

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Ministry of Health Senior House Officer Dr Cherita Moxey.

However, during a Ministry of Health press conference on Friday, Dr Cherita Moxey, a senior house officer, admitted that about 21,000 people required to take the antigen test have not done so. The government previously said that failure to take the antigen test on day five could result in a $1,000 fine or one-month prison sentence. However it is unclear if any traveller has been given a penalty for such a breach.

“There is a bucket of individuals who at the fifth day tested negative and that is roughly 26,000 individuals who tested negative,” she said. “Now we get to that bucket of individuals who were not tested. That number when we just look at it in an absolute sense seems like a lot, it’s a little bit over 43,000. However, we have to look at the data in terms of who was eligible to have the five-day rapid antigen test done and when we look at those who were eligible, i.e. those who have been in The Bahamas five days or longer, we see that there is about 21,000 or about 46 percent of individuals who were supposed to take the antigen tests but did not take it so there is some concern there. We certainly need to ensure that people who are supposed to take that rapid antigen test actually do take it.”

Dr Darville, a former Minister of Grand Bahama, said the revelation “raises a red flag” as the country braces for potentially more infectious variants of COVID-19.

“That’s an area that needs to be sorted out immediately,” he said when contacted. “They must put the necessary resources to find the manpower to ensure that that is corrected. In view of the fact that we have highly contagious strains popping up, we have to do a better job to ensure that visitors as well as residents arriving who are supposed to do follow up testing get those testing done. If we are going to open up and stay open, it is crucial and if we don’t, we will miss cases. There could be severe clusters of COVID-19 popping up.”

For his part, Mr Davis said officials should be more vigilant at this time, not less.

“The government is playing with fire but it is the Bahamian people who will get burned,” Mr Davis said. “With new, more transmissible strains of COVID now circulating in the US and elsewhere, it’s time to be more vigilant, not less. The government needs to move quickly to fix its lax enforcement of the testing requirement. This is not a game.

“The Prime Minister is speaking to the nation on Tuesday night. He should provide an accounting of what went wrong and how he intends to fix the errors.

“The government’s broken, mistake-filled reopening policies in July led to more than 7,000 new cases in The Bahamas, and the lockdowns and curfews that followed crushed local businesses. We can’t afford this government’s mistakes. We can’t afford a third wave. People are already suffering too much,” the PLP leader added.

The PLP’s warning comes as the country appears to have arrested control of the second COVID-19 wave. Over the weekend, only three people remained hospitalised with the virus, the lowest since mid-July.

Nonetheless, health officials believe it is a matter of when, not if, the more infectious COVID-19 variants that originated in the United Kingdom and South Africa impact the country.

Chief Medical Officer Dr Pearl McMillan said on Friday that officials will choose indicators that will determine when positive COVID-19 samples will be sent to foreign labs to undergo the genome sequencing that identifies various COVID-19 strains.

Dr Darville said: “I see the (COVID-19 ambassador) cars driving up and down and I see them throughout New Providence with their green lights to indicate that yes we do have these COVID ambassadors. It begs the question, how could 41 percent of visitors who are supposed to be tested on day five after coming in not be tested? Where did these individuals go? And who is responsible for ensuring this is to be done? Is it the COVID police or the contact tracers assigned to this mission?

“Let’s say there were two to three travelers who came in and were positive by day five but did not get tested and they are in and about the hotels interacting with people. That could possibly cause community spread.

“Tourism numbers are down by 95 percent and we missed 40 percent of people coming in? This shows we have to do a better job. You can’t sit back and rely on the individuals to show up and say we came in, it’s our responsibility to make sure we have the digital capability to monitor things like this.

“We found out the statistics and now it’s the responsibility of the government to fix it and do it immediately so we have a fighting chance to ensure our tourism sector stays open.”

During Friday’s press conference, Dr McMillan said 70,000 antigen tests have been performed for travel purposes since November 1. Of these, there have been 113 positive COVID-19 cases, she said, including 58.4 percent who were tourists and 34.5 percent who 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 were contracts of positive travel cases.

“That is an area that we recognise is a gap and we are seeking to work closer as Dr Moxey alluded to, we have to work a little closer with our tourism partners to ensure that we are actually getting these persons tested and that we are actually getting a little more access to the data to be able to give the true numbers,” she said. “But we have a robust partnership so we anticipate that that will occur.”

Travellers must have a negative COVID-19 PCR test no more than five days old to enter the country and apply for a travel health visa.

Comments

KapunkleUp 3 months ago

Chicken Davis is yet again gracing us with his many words of wisdom.

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JokeyJack 3 months ago

But what if they end up with the same results as the BGCSE students?

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bcitizen 3 months ago

I have spoken to many Tourists who are unaware that they need the 5 day test. I asked did anyone say anything to you when clearing customs and immigration and they all said no. Why is customs and immigration not ensuring people understand this when they are entering the country. It would take zero effort to just remind people or make sure they are aware.

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professionalbahamian 3 months ago

Maybe, just maybe you should reconsider the requirements - 5 day retesting is an inconvenience! Particularly after paying $225 in FL for 48 hour turn around time for results for a PCR test in USA in order to get the $25 health travel visa (reportedly up to 72 hours to obtain in USA) and land in Bahamas within 5 days from test day... hmm no wonder fewer visitors. Is there a suitable saliva test - YES or NO? What is so special about the 5 days versus 7 or 10 as is the case elsewhere? Why do some need tests to leave Nassau and some don't? Why is rapid antigen ($17) Ok to enter a hotel and not Ok to get a travel Visa at least domestically?

Come on government - PLEASE adapt & improve or this ship will sink!

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joeblow 3 months ago

If the survival of this country was to ever depend on the intelligence, foresight and diligence of our leaders we would become like the Arawaks overnight!

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KapunkleUp 3 months ago

Fully agree with you but remember... if you have 100 monkeys in a junkyard, the probability of them building a working car is not absolute zero.

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joeblow 3 months ago

... but the probability is significantly higher that they will turn it into a toilet!

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FreeportFreddy 3 months ago

I suspect that a large number of those not taking the 5 day test were in fact here for 3, 4 or 5 days!

I am sure that no one would knowingly not comply when in a foreign country ... cuz you gotta leave as some point.

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joeblow 3 months ago

Paragraph 1 of the article:

DOCTOR Michael Darville, the co-chair of the Progressive Liberal Party’s COVID-19 task force, says the revelation that 46 percent of travellers to The Bahamas have not taken the COVID-19 antigen test after five days in the country is alarming and should “greatly concern” Bahamians.

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nassau98@aol.com 3 months ago

The Rapid Antigen test for domestic travel makes good sense. The goverment should seriously consider this, before they destroy more families on the family islands, who simply cannot afford the Covid -19 PCR test.

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TalRussell 3 months ago

My Comrade Nassau, the details well known by out islanders getting sick which has/can overnight bring destruction the finances of many an out islander's family members.
An Abacoian family member who uncourtly got bout life-threatening sickness even before COVID, and by the time they charted a flight to Nassau and had checked out the hospital after only 4 days recovery - the cost directly from out their own pockets was the handsomely grand sum $15,477 incurred by the time they returned back on Abaco have walked through their front door...and I'm told they were so lucky gotten away on cheap incurred cash from pockets.

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TalRussell 3 months ago

The stitching for the basket cases evident in we colony's crime escalation as well as in the elected and politically appointed to leadership all began with the policy of justifying the upscaling by introducing luxury airconditioning into the classrooms. Shakehead a quick once for upyeahvote, Twice for not?

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Bobsyeruncle 3 months ago

Could some of these be Bahamians returning home after a trip?

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TalRussell 3 months ago

The same way the Fingerprints, DNA, and names NO FLY Lists of many comrades be's kept on file for life, so, should there be a Global Registry maintained on all travelers'. Shakehead a quick once for upyeahvote, Twice for not?

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Hotelier 3 months ago

I am writing from a Family Island. It is very simple. The government mandated test is not available at the Government Clinic. Visitors simply leave the country at the end of their stay.

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TalRussell 3 months ago

My comrade Hotelier, shouldn't it be an impeachable act to create a farce of a security blanket to steer the Abacoians at large (AAL) into thinking they can have a sense of trust and comfort, confidence, and safety in what their two MP's telling them?
Hopefully, AAL
goin' steer clear away from welcoming back the two House-elected red coats MP's be seated up in House, come April 2021's general election day?
Only thing that AAL needin' asks their two Abaco MP's if tis true that they witnessed the office of the prime minister's, hiring of the two additional republican general election strategists hailing out the sludge oil** state of Texas?

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John 3 months ago

The Biden administration plans to distribute all available doses of the Corona vaccine rather than holding reserves fir persons who will require a second dose. Is this a wise decision, considering the challenges that are being met distributing the vaccine. Persons who do not receive the second part of the vaccine within 21 days will have to take the first dose over. Also the first dose alone does not provide any protection against the virus. With the US adding 1/4 million new cases a day, there’s panic and a mass rush to get the vaccine distributed. But experts say the most effectiveness of the vaccine will be realized when it is administered in conjunction with other measures, including the wearing of masks, social distancing, sanitizer and regular washing of hands. Here in The Bahamas those protocols have been effective, exclusive of the vaccine and the effects of the virus on ‘new’ populations, like San Salvador are clearly visible. Then, of course, the effects of the several new variations of Corona have not yet been felt in this country. But hopefully these will be the last and final waves of the virus.

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