By LEANDRA ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
FORMER Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis has called on health officials to aggressively investigate the recent spike of COVID-19 cases on Inagua, as some residents there call for more restrictive measures.
A few residents have attributed the increase in cases in the small community to last month’s political activities.
Over the weekend, the Ministry of Health reported that Inagua has 23 active cases of the virus, with 34 people currently in quarantine for COVID exposure. According to the ministry, five Inagua residents have been airlifted to New Providence to receive care for COVID-19, while two people have since died from the virus. The ministry also said two other people from Inagua developed COVID-19 symptoms while in New Providence and subsequently died.
The report came after concerns were expressed by residents about the stark rise in COVID-19 cases and deaths on the island, with some even calling for a full lockdown of the community.
Health Minister Dr Michael Darville reportedly identified the confirmed cases as “clusters” during an on-air interview on Beyond the Headlines with host Shenique Miller.
Speaking to The Tribune about the situation in Inagua, Dr Minnis said: “The Ministry of Health needs to investigate and report to the public what is happening on that island. I want health to kindly investigate what is happening in Inagua. The residents of Inagua are frightened and they want additional restrictions to prevent further spread of the virus.
“The longer the delay, a possible set up for disaster in our southern islands (can occur)... Inagua and other islands have limited health facilities. If not attacked aggressively (the situation) can lead to more unnecessary death,” Dr Minnis said.
In a statement on Saturday, health officials said they were closely monitoring the situation on Inagua as well as several other southern Family Islands, including Mayaguana, Crooked Island and Acklins.
The Tribune was also told that a mother and a daughter from Andros were recently airlifted to the capital after testing positive for COVID, but the daughter later died.
“The Ministry of Health advises that Minister Darville is acutely aware of the COVID status on these islands and is actively engaged. Already, Minister Darville made provisions for additional unused oxygen tanks located in Mayaguana to be transported to Inagua with swift use,” according to the ministry’s statement.
Health officials did not make it clear where the latest outbreak on Inagua originated, but residents think the spike stemmed from recent election campaigning and celebratory events.
“From the time we had the election, that campaigning with all those people moving up and down and backward and forward, they brought a disease in here,” one concerned resident, who asked to remain anonymous, told The Tribune yesterday.
“From the election, we have four dead and we done ship out about six,” the resident claimed. “We ship out one last night. We have a next one now in the hospital and many more who ain’t saying nothing and they trying to deny it and this came out of the PLP’s headquarters.
“They trying to say it been around long time but we never had a spike like this from before election, only after that campaigning and stuff. Inagua gone haywire like this.”
Some residents claim that locals there were letting their guards down way before the general election.
“I think the letting down of the guard was even before election because even before that, you had people kinda going to discos and moving around and we have a shop here and we have to be constantly telling people ‘put on your mask, put on your mask’,” said another resident, who asked for his name to be withheld.
“And, yes, during election time, both parties allowed it to just circulate amongst themselves gathering together and especially after the election, the celebration started then.”
The resident said while the island has grappled with COVID-19 spikes in the past, the community has never experienced such a deadly and infectious wave of the virus as this one.
Asked if he believed tighter measures were needed to get the situation under control, the resident said while he’s not against more restrictions, he believes there just needs to be a greater adherence and enforcement of current health measures.
“I think a lockdown would help, but if we would all follow the protocols of wearing masks and constantly sanitizing and washing our hands and social distancing, it’s almost the same thing as a lockdown. A lockdown means well nobody can go anywhere, but people still find ways to slip around and sneak around during lockdowns and I have seen it happen,” the resident added.
“I think it would help too if the police would act more like COVID police to kind of enforce the people who are supposed to be in quarantine and to enforce them to constantly be in quarantine because the police know and we don’t know and sometimes people come in the shop and only after they go someone would say ‘you know that person ain’t supposed to be round’ and we never knew so it things like that what’s causing the spread.”
Added to these concerns are the reported lack of medical resources on the island to handle the spike.
Inagua resident Jaycoda Major said the worsening COVID crisis on the island has made it difficult for non-COVID patients to get care and appealed for officials to send additional help to Inagua.
“The other concern that is really troubling for us is because in the last ten days almost every day the clinic is dealing with COVID patients so we have one doctor and three nurses on the island. That’s it,” Mr Major said. “So if you are sick and feeling unwell for some other reason you cannot even see a doctor because every single day, like last week for example you could only call and say I need my medicine refilled, but if you are feeling sick, you could not go unless it’s a life and death situation because almost every day there is either one or two COVID positive patients in there who they are trying to stabilize so they can get (them on a) flight so it’s a concern and not fair.”
“So, at minimum, the doctor’s need help and the clinic needs help because the rest of us need to see a doctor as well, but we also know there are more cases.”
According to the ministry’s latest COVID dashboard, Inagua has recorded 48 cases of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic.
Two hundred and fifty-eight people there are fully vaccinated, while 474 have received at least one dose.