Nassau, The Bahamas - Minister of Health the Hon. Renward Wells assured the public that the health system stands ready to cope with the upsurge in COVID-19 cases facing The Bahamas.
He made the statement while giving a COVID-19 update in the House of Assembly on Wednesday, April 21, 2021.
“The Ministry of Health and the government stands ready to cope with the COVID-19 hospitalizations in the country, having expanded our bed capacity significantly during our second wave experience,” Minister Wells said.
He noted that the Supplies Management Agency is fully stocked to cover masks, gloves, gowns, shoe covers, and full overalls, etc. as well as additional equipment and supplies for a sustained response while protecting health care workers.
“Despite readiness, however, we must continue to adhere to public health precautions to break the chains of transmission of the virus,” Minister Wells advised. “We can ill-afford an exponential increase in the number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.”
He reiterated that the proven strategy to combat COVID-19 pandemic is to adhere to public health measures, testing, isolation, trace and treat.
However, he stressed that vaccination is a critical element in controlling the spread of COVID-19 and bringing an end to this pandemic.
The rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine in The Bahamas began on the March 14. And since then, 21,907 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine have been administered at various sites and by mobile units across New Providence, Grand Bahama, Eleuthera and Abaco.
Globally, the COVID-19 pandemic has reached an all-time high. COVID-19 cases and deaths continue to surge. The world is now seeing the highest rate of infection.
“Globally the number of new cases per week has nearly doubled over the past two months. This is approaching the highest rate of infection that we have seen so far during the pandemic. Some countries that had previously avoided widespread transmission are now seeing steep increased infections,” Minister Wells said.
He added that this picture is also true for the Region of the Americas, and even closer to home, the CARICOM member states; and The Bahamas being no exception.
“Our data clearly shows that we are in another surge. We are noticing a pattern that was seen at the beginning of the second wave.
“We saw how COVID-19 cases slowed down during the second wave at the end of October, beginning of November 2020 with no definitive end, we maintained a steady-state for some months,” Minister Wells said.
However, by the end of February beginning of March 2021, the picture changed and in recent weeks there has been a three-fold increase in cases, which is almost 300 percent from that time to now.
Minister Wells reported that New Providence continues to be the epicentre and the greatest contributor to the total COVID-19 burden in-country. Of the approximately 1,901 new cases reported between the beginning of 2021 to date, 1,079 of these have been in New Providence. This translates to almost 60 percent of new cases being allocated to the total from New Providence.
He noted however that there has been a “quieting” time, in part due to special missions into the islands like Abaco and Eleuthera. A team is in Grand Bahama to assess the situation there to determine the number of cases and if there is a need for widespread testing.
Meanwhile, the Ministry strongly believes there to be an association between the uptick in ICU admissions and the level of COVID-19 severity at presentation to the country’s tertiary care institutions.
“Further investigations will shed light on whether the severity at presentation is linked to SARS-CoV-2 variants which current genomic screening by the National Reference Laboratory now suggests are circulating in the Bahamian population,” Minister Wells said.
The testing materials for the in-country variant screening were provided by the Pan America Health Organization (PAHO) and received at the National Reference Laboratory a little over a week ago.
“We commend the forward-thinking of the Laboratory Director, Dr. Indira Martin. The NRL completed screening of some 120 COVID-19 positive samples collected from the 13 March to 17 April, 2021,” Minister Wells said.