By TANYA SMITH-CARTWRIGHT
WITH daily recorded new COVID-19 infections back in the triple digits, former Minister of Health Dr Duane Sands says the country’s third wave appears to be accelerating.
Due to a stark rise in coronavirus deaths which is only expected to increase, coupled with burnt out frontline staff and increased hospital cases, Dr Sands says the country’s situation “is not good”.
However, he believes that extending the state of emergency is not the answer to get out of the pandemic. Dr Sands said the best alternative would be to put legislation in place to govern behaviour as it pertains to COVID-19 protocols.
Never an advocate of the various extensions to the Emergency Powers Orders, Dr Sands feels strongly that the orders should end as COVID numbers are high even though they are in place. Government officials have said there is no plan to extend the current state of emergency, set to expire in August.
“I have said that the Emergency Orders should have ended a long time ago,” the Elizabeth MP told The Tribune yesterday. “Certainly if we are where we are with the Emergency Orders then maybe an alternative approach may be better.”
The last COVID-19 dashboard issued by the Ministry of Health dated July 17 has recorded 100 new cases of the virus. Of the 100 new cases, 83 are in New Providence, seven are in Grand Bahama, one is in Abaco, seven are in Eleuthera and two are in Exuma.
“What we do need is to understand, as I’ve said in my budget contribution, that our very economic survival is predicated on being a COVID-safe environment,” Dr Sands continued.
“If we don’t all collectively get that through our heads, we’re doomed. All of us need to understand that the rebound that we are benefiting from, the return to work that we are enjoying, the economic revival that we are seeing, is a fragile thing. It can only be sustained if we adopt best practices as it relates to COVID.
“You cannot have an emergency that goes on forever. We have been in an emergency for 18 months, now. At some point and time you are no longer in an emergency. You are in a new normal. Constitutionally, we are going to have to do what the legislative arm of government is supposed to do. And, that is to put in place whatever legislative framework is required to protect the livelihood, welfare, health and safety of Bahamians.”
The United States is also seeing a surge in COVID-19 cases with the Delta variant of the virus dominating. This is said to be the most deadly of all variants being far more contagious with a higher death rate.
Locally, the COVID-19 death has risen sharply to 273 after 17 new deaths were reported on Friday. Twelve of those deaths were reported in the July 15 dashboard and five were in the July 14 dashboard; both of which were released on Friday.
Seventy-six people are in hospital.
Dr Sands spoke to the high hospitalisation rates and deaths due to the virus stating that it is “not good” in the country at this time.
“This is a very unfortunate situation and we’ve been having this discussion now for several weeks because if we are still calling this the third wave, then it has not abated and if anything its accelerating,” he said. “So, by whatever metric we use, the situation is not good in The Bahamas.
“If we were to track the number of hospitalisations for the last 14 days, we were at a low of 50 and a high of some 73 or 74 admissions. The problem, unfortunately, is that a significant number of those admissions … 13 of them are in an intensive care unit. That portends of a particularly bad scenario because we know actuarially that between 30 and 50 percent of patients who require mechanical ventilation or ICU care, will not survive.
“The numbers of deaths are now at 273 with 22 still not yet assigned so it could be as high as 295. These numbers for deaths are likely, given the fact that we have more than 12 days left in July, we are going to eclipse the 31 deaths that we had in May. We have plenty more days left in July and we are already at 27 deaths. I can tell you that we had another death last night. It’s going to take a while for that death to make it into the official numbers.”
Dr Sands said to compound the issue, frontline health workers are feeling burnt out. There is also the question of whether those who are currently infected are vaccinated or not.
“I think we need to understand that the situation where we have Junkanoo rush outs and big funerals and so forth in a population where less than 10 percent are vaccinated is not a good idea,” he said.
“When you add to that the hard-working staff that cares for COVID patients, nurses, respiratory therapists and so on, they are exhausted! I am telling you that across the board, many of the people who day in and day out take care of COVID patients are tired.
“Based on what we have heard from Dr (Nikkiah) Forbes and others like Mary Walker, like in many countries, the disproportionate attack rates of COVID seems to be on the unvaccinated, at least in terms of people hospitalised and dying. I don’t have access to specific numbers to say that it was 92 percent or 96 percent etcetera, but I have no reason to disbelieve the sources who have already spoken on the matter.”