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Free Testing Pilot For Islands Most At Risk

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LEONARDO LIGHTBOURNE

By TANYA SMITH-CARTWRIGHT

tsmith-cartwright@tribunemedia.net

AMID reports of outbreaks in several Family Islands, the Ministry of Health and Wellness said the government’s free COVID-19 testing programme will be launched as a pilot in islands most at risk for spread of the virus.

Health officials will also begin distributing medical-grade masks on Family Islands currently experiencing COVID-19 clusters and are “in the process of identifying resources” to assist with the surveillance and enforcement of COVID-19 protocols as well as expanding vaccination in these communities.

The statement from the Ministry of Health and Wellness came after North Andros and Berry Islands member of Parliament Leonardo Lightbourne called on his constituents to follow pandemic protocols until health officials get the community’s COVID-19 “outbreak” under control.

Several Family Islands, in particular Andros, Eleuthera and Inagua, are said to be experiencing an outbreak of the potentially deadly coronavirus.

A married couple and a mother and daughter are amongst COVID-19 deaths reported for Andros, among others.

On Saturday, Mr Lightbourne issued a statement which said he is in talks with Health and Wellness Minister Dr Michael Darville to get the situation in his constituency under control.

“To the residents of the North Andros and the Berry Islands constituencies, please note that I am aware of the present outbreak of COVID-19 in the communities,” Mr Lightbourne said.

“I have spoken to the Minister of Health and Wellness Michael Darville, who is currently organising a team of health professionals and enforcement officers to be sent to the islands. “I have the most confidence in our medical professionals who will ensure that public health protocols inclusive of contact tracing, isolation and quarantine of individuals where necessary to mitigate the spread of this deadly virus are implemented.”

The Tribune spoke to a few residents of Andros who were affected by the outbreak.

Cindy Rolle, a resident of North Andros, said her sister has COVID-19, but does not have many symptoms. She believes her sister caught the virus during the recent general election activities.

“My sister is coronavirus positive,” Ms Rolle said. “If I didn’t see her results I would not have known she had it. She doesn’t have any symptoms like that, but she has it. She got it from one of our cousins who was walking around campaigning and even after elections they were meeting and all with each other without any mask on.

“My sister doesn’t work so after the election he kept coming around her to talk about the election results and he was upset. He was going around to everyone running on about how election was and about two weeks later he was in Nassau in the hospital and he is still there. I know my sister got it from him. Every other person has COVID here.

“She had a runny nose and even though it wasn’t really bothering her like that, we still told her to get a test. That’s how we found out she had COVID. So we are just thinking that the campaigning might have caused the spread. We shouldn’t have had an election, that’s what. This is a serious problem over here, it’s like everyone is catching it.”

Gregory Ferguson, also of North Andros, said he is staying safe as he just recovered from a terrible bout of COVID and fears he gave it to several of his family and friends.

“First I really have to thank God for sparing my life,” Mr Ferguson said. “I was really sick. I am very concerned about how many people are catching COVID. One of the reasons I am so thankful to God is because I have survived it. Not a lot of people can say that. People here are dying. This is very serious and the numbers are growing.

“I actually got COVID when I was in Eleuthera. I will be honest. I went over there for a party. “When people get together they are drinking and eating and drinking. Even if they come to the place in a mask, they will take it off soon when the partying begins. They don’t understand how serious this Delta virus is. I honestly thought I was going to die. I thank God for life.”

In its statement yesterday, the Ministry of Health and Wellness said Dr Darville and members of his COVID-19 technical team have visited islands in the southern and central Bahamas to conduct an urgent assessment. In addition, the ministry has dispatched COVID-19 surveillance and enforcement units to Inagua, North Eleuthera, and the Berry Islands with the intention to review COVID-19 cases, tighten surveillance protocols, and better support those who need to isolate and quarantine.

“It has been clear for more than a year that widespread testing is an important tool that has been under-utilised in our country’s fight against the spread of the virus. The government is in the process of building a nationwide free testing programme; free testing will begin as a pilot programme in those Family Islands currently most at risk for community spread of the COVID virus.

“The ministry will also begin distribution of medical-grade masks on those islands currently experiencing COVID-19 clusters. Additionally, the ministry is in the process of identifying resources to assist with the surveillance and enforcement of COVID-19 protocols and will expand both public education and vaccinations on these islands.”

The statement said the steps outlined by the ministry are in accordance with the Davis government’s determination “to rely on a cooperative approach rather than a punitive one”.

Comments

JokeyJack 1 month, 2 weeks ago

Nonsense. Just a scheme to get more "cases" numbers to print in the newspaper.

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sheeprunner12 1 month, 1 week ago

The Govt wants ppl to take vaccine like WHO, but the vaccine is causing more problems because our ppl have too many co-morbidities. Then ppl feel free to act as they want once they take the vaccine. Govt is in a Catch22. God help us

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JokeyJack 1 month, 1 week ago

Of course it could not just be that the vaccine is a flop right? Dr Fauci is without error like Jesus? Do we even have Jesus anymore, now that Anthony is here?

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licks2 1 month, 1 week ago

THE WHOLE WORLD HAS BEEN TESTING FOR ALMOST 2 YEARS NOW?????

Need to "pilot" how to test for free???? I really don't get this one. . .it is like need to pilot how to give out free gas to drivers them!!! This ger be long nah!!

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sheeprunner12 1 month, 1 week ago

Lots of Covid and food crisis coming. The next year is going to be hard for 242. PLP better have some serious plans ..... So far, nothing much to talk about

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