By TANYA SMITH-CARTWRIGHT
THE Bahamas is one of just 27 countries that have tamed the COVID-19 pandemic, according to over 4,000 scientists and community organisers worldwide.
The list of countries “beating” COVID-19 was put together by scientists from EndCoronavirus.org, a self-described international volunteer coalition made up of researchers and other community stakeholders.
A local infectious disease expert said although the country’s healthcare officials should be congratulated by the situation, citizens should not drop their guard.
Dr Nikkiah Forbes, director of the National HIV/AIDS and Infectious Disease Programme at the Ministry of Health, said: “The Bahamas is one of those 27 countries that has flattened the COVID-19 curve. That is good, but remember this can change in a relatively short period of time if we put down our guard. We see countries that had flattened the curve are having challenges with COVID outbreak now, so we know that things can change rapidly.
“So, yes, we should be congratulated. We have learned a lot about COVID-19 and what we need to do to keep the curve flat. The lessons we learned over the last year were hard, learned lessons. They were painful. We have to focus on what we still need to do.”
Other countries on the list which are “beating” the disease are: Australia, Bhutan, Brunei, Cambodia, Djibouti, Dominica, Fiji, Holy See, Iceland, Laos, Liechtenstein, Marshall Islands, Mauritius, Monaco, Mongolia, New Zealand, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Samoa, San Marino, Solomon Islands, Somalia, Sudan, Taiwan, Timor-Leste, Trinidad and Tobago, Vanuatu and Vietnam.
Explaining the road to flattening the curve, Dr Forbes said: “We know that we have flattened the curve of the first and second wave. So, when we look at how the curve got flattened it’s a combination of things. We have a robust prevention strategy we have the public health recommendations and also you have to have a good control strategy.
“You have to be able to isolate, do contact tracing and quarantine. One of the most important things is how well we adhere to the public health recommendations. That is what is needed to stop the ongoing spread of COVID-19 and keep the curve flat. We were able to flatten the COVID-19 curve twice, but there is something more important than that and that is keeping the curve flat.”
On Wednesday, America saw the swearing in of Joseph Biden Jr, its 46th president. Before the day ended, President Biden reversed the decision of his predecessor and returned America as a member country of the World Health Organization (WHO).
The Tribune asked Dr Forbes what this means for The Bahamas in terms of assistance in obtaining COVID-19 vaccines.
She said: “The WHO has support for member countries. With the United States returning as a member country there should be additional contribution and support. This may not necessarily mean direct assistance. The WHO has a platform called COVAX which essentially will be very helpful to vaccine accessibility and equability. So, if there is more member country support, there would be more help for developing countries.”
The Bahamas is a part of COVAX.
Meanwhile, the US Centers for Disease Control has updated its guidelines to say instead of six feet, airborne COVID-19 can infect a person from as far as seven feet.
Asked if this means The Bahamas has to amend its protocols which currently ask for social distancing at six feet, Dr Forbes said an amendment is not necessary.
She explained: “Not necessarily because scientists had an idea that there were certain scenarios where people can get infected outside of the usual six feet. Example, if you are in a crowded closed room with a lot of people or if a person sneezes or coughs and a fan is blowing or if an air-condition vent is blowing in one direction, this is where the guidelines come in – wear a proper fitting mask and avoid closed rooms with a lot of people.
“So, there are examples where you can get COVID even if you are further than six feet away from someone, but there are only certain scenarios with that. Most infections of SARS CoV-2 are spread from close contact and not airborne transmissions. Basically airborne transmissions only occur under special circumstances like enclosed spaces and prolonged exposure.”
Recently Medscape’s Coronavirus Resource Center reported that about 17 percent of COVID-19 survivors retested positive in a follow up study in Italy.
These people were said to have recovered from COVID and then upon retesting two weeks later they were found to be positive and displaying symptoms of sore throats and rhinitis. Asked about this, Dr Forbes said scientists have also learned that if they test people weeks and even months after they have recovered from COVID-19 they can still detect the virus.
The good news, she said, is that even though the virus can still be detected, it is no longer infectious in most cases.