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Sands: Expect more COVID-19 cases

The Nassau Guardian March 19, 2020 Jasper Ward

Health Minister Dr. Duane Sands said yesterday The Bahamas can expect an increase in COVID-19 cases “within the coming days”.

“We can expect an increasing number of cases within the coming days and we are preparing for that eventuality as and when it occurs,” Sands said during a press conference at the Ministry of Health.

“However, it does not need to happen in the manner that our neighbors in other countries have experienced.

“So, together, ministries, agencies, departments, businesses, communities, corporations and each and every one of us in the general public can achieve a flat line or tapering off coronavirus infections, which simply means we will have cases, but not too many cases.”

There are three confirmed cases of the virus in The Bahamas.

The most recent patients to test positive for the virus are individuals who live in the same house as the first COVID-19 patient — a 61-year-old New Providence resident, according to officials.

The two additional patients had recently traveled to Canada, Trinidad and Dubai, which are “territories with known community transmission”, according to Sands.

There are more than 215,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in at least 144 countries, according to the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center. At least 8,700 people have died from the disease.

Up to press time, there were 11 individuals in quarantine in The Bahamas.

Chief Medical Officer Dr. Pearl McMillan said the ministry will bring on more staff from other departments to combat the worsening COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’ve been looking at [bringing] in other categories of staff that could potentially augment and assist with probably doing the testing and as well as probably get additional nurses by shutting down some of our usual business work within the ministry or Department of Public Health,” she said.

“So, we are actually putting together, well we have it now, we have a plan for how we will actually augment the surveillance unit to be able to do whatever contact tracing is necessary for us to be able to ensure that we are at least seeking to determine exactly how much spread we have as we seek to also decrease the likelihood of spread by having the measures that we’re putting in place.”

McMillian said the ministry’s four COVID-19 hotline numbers have been “ringing off the hook”.

As a result, she said the ministry is also considering the establishment of a call center to handle the amount of calls it has been receiving on its COVID-19 hotline.

“What we are seeking to do now is expand that, the capacity for call-ins and we’re looking at actually doing a…I would say a call center,” McMillian said.

“We have not fully established the mechanism for how that would work. We anticipate by tomorrow or certainly by the day after we would have augmented our numbers, our call numbers by at least eight or so more numbers that you can actually call in and actually get the information.”

COVID-19, which can cause pneumonia, originated in Wuhan, China, late last year.

Since then, it has spread to all continents except Antarctica.

Earlier this week, U.S. President Donald Trump projected that the COVID-19 crisis could stretch into August.

Asked yesterday how long she anticipates the COVID-19 crisis will last in The Bahamas, McMillian replied, “Well, I can’t give you a concrete time. We have the opportunity to influence that by the measures that we put in place now.”

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