By LEANDRA ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
HEALTH and Wellness Minister Dr Michael Darville said his ministry is working closely with the Royal Bahamas Police Force to locate another digital monitoring system to better enforce quarantine rules as surveillance continues to remain a challenge.
Although he did not disclose how many people have broken quarantine to date, the health minister said there is concern about asymptomatic patients who “for some strange reason” feel it is acceptable to break isolation rules.
“We are concerned about individuals who for some strange reason because they may be asymptomatic (feel) that breaking the quarantine is something that the government would accept,” Dr Darville said before going to a Cabinet meeting yesterday.
“We’re not going to. We’re going to be very firm on individuals who are in quarantine to ensure that you maintain quarantine and quarantine is usually about 14 days.”
During the onset of the pandemic, the former government signed a contract for a web and mobile app, called Hubbcat, to track those in quarantine.
It was later revealed by the Minnis administration that a new geofencing application would be introduced to replace the Hubbcat system.
Yesterday, Dr Darville did not want to comment on whether he felt money used on the Hubbcat system was wasted under the former government.
However, he said the Davis administration is committed to finding the right monitoring system, one that is user friendly and well suited for their purposes.
He said: “We definitely are working very closely with the Royal Bahamas Police Force to ensure that we find the right digital monitoring system that we would put in place, something that is user friendly that would not put our healthcare professionals at great risk and something that would be palatable to the Bahamian people.
“But I believe the Bahamian people understand that if you’re in quarantine and if you use a digital device to ensure that you maintain quarantine, I believe that it will be acceptable and we’re looking very closely at that and as a matter of fact, were discussing it in detail and we’re just finalising the protocols before they are implemented throughout the country.”
Concerns about the enforcement of quarantine and isolation rules comes as the country seeks to arrest control of the COVID-19 crisis.
Although overall infection rates appear to be trending downward, there has been a slight uptick in infections on several Family Islands as well as increase in virus-related deaths.
Free COVID-19 testing is scheduled to begin in some of those communities, particularly Eleuthera, today as officials zero in on several areas of concern.
Speaking on the issue yesterday, Dr Darville said: “Well, there’s clusters in quite a few Family Islands. We know we have one in Inagua. We had one in Mayaguana that is resolved to my understanding. We have clusters in Eleuthera. We have a small cluster in San Salvador and the Bahamian people must realise that COVID is not going anywhere.
“It is the way that we control it and the way how we control it is to ensure that we have testing capabilities on the island, to make sure that we have a structured protocol in the event that someone is isolated, we know exactly how that’s done. And then, of course, we must ensure that there’s surveillance to make sure that those who are in quarantine and isolation do what they’re supposed to do because you don’t want community spread.”
“But we realise that going forward like every country in the world, there will be clusters of COVID and it’s up to the healthcare professionals to be able to solve those problems. At the Ministry of Health, we are now building our capacity in order to do it and we see the gaps that exist in the Family Islands and it’s our duty to begin to do the training and unfortunately, top quality contact tracers, you don’t just pick them up today. They need to be trained and the training process is something that’s very intense and in order to be effective, we must begin to improve the quality of training as well as the manpower resources in order to do it.”
Dr Darville also spoke about the drop in COVID-19 related hospital admissions, saying officials are pleased with the declining numbers.
At last report, less than 100 people were said to be in hospital sick with the virus, a considerable decrease from a record 195 as reported in early September.
To this, the health minister added: “Some of that is directly related to some changes at the healthcare system particularly at the tertiary facilities. We’re now getting our message out to the community that it’s important to respond quickly when you start to develop signs.
“Like I’ve said before…it’s important to understand your symptoms, know what your limitations are and if you begin to feel that it becomes more difficult for you to do lighter activity in the home, don’t feel as though you could fight it. It’s important to intervene and get some healthcare professionals involved and to seek help.”
Since the start of the pandemic, The Bahamas has recorded more than 22,200 cases of COVID-19 and more than 640 virus-related deaths.