Health Minister Wells: ‘New policy for COVID-19 spread to come soon’

RENWARD WELLS, Minister of Health

Following the recent spike in COVID-19 positive cases in Grand Bahama, which has reportedly been confined to an industrial area, Minister of Health Renward Wells has rolled out new initiatives aimed at curbing the increase.

Wells said that a policy has been developed and ratified for rapid antigen testing and will be disseminated to the public, “soon.”

The minister made the announcement on the heels of curfew and lockdown measures outlined in a statement on Exuma by Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis, and the increased cases in Grand Bahama over a recent three-day period.

On November 11, for Grand Bahama there were 38 confirmed cases. Then on November 12 ,there were 19, and the day following (November 13) there were seven cases reported.

Eleven additional cases were recorded on November 15, bringing the island’s total to 915.

While health officials are concerned over the high number of recent virus cases, Dr. Minnis, in an interview with a national daily confirmed that GB’s recent cases were confined to a particular area.

“There is no direct evidence that it’s penetrated the community at this particular time, but those individuals in those areas, they still live within segments of the community. It’s always a possibility that somebody can visit them and subsequently take it out and then go attend a funeral, which we know causes great problems.

“And so, I ask individuals to adhere to the requirements and standards of funerals, churches, etc.”

Minister of State for Grand Bahama in the Office of the Prime Minister, Senator J. Kwasi Thompson, also warned Grand Bahamians to continue complying with the health protocols in place.

“Wear your masks, sanitize and remain vigilant. Do not let your guards down,” he admonished during a Senate meeting on Monday, November 16.

As for the Eleuthera, Wells continued: “Recent measures have also been imposed on Eleuthera, due to a spike in COVID- 19 cases on that island.”

On November 9, the cases in Exuma increased by 12 in one day. And, in response, the prime minister in his capacity as the Competent Authority, announced the implementation of a 24-hour weekend curfew, a weekday curfew from 6:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. and other restrictive measures to help slow the spread of COVID-19 on mainland Exuma.

As of November 12, 2020, the total number of confirmed cases on the island of Exuma stood at 80.

In this vein, an assessment team from the Ministry of Health on New Providence was dispatched to the island of Exuma the morning of Friday, November 13.

Wells observed that some islands of The Bahamas are currently under restrictions, such as weekend and weekday curfews, while others are seeing a loosening of these restrictions.

“We need to be mindful that these restrictions are not punishment. They are for the safety and well-being of the Bahamian people. The goal is to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 in the community.

“We want to save lives. The data has indicated that such preventative measures slow the spread of transmission in the community,” he said.

The minister then announced that a policy has been developed and ratified by the Ministry of Health’s EOC for rapid antigen testing, and will soon be disseminated to the public.

“The saliva direct test is being rolled out in Bimini, Abaco, Exuma, Grand Bahama and New Providence. I am happy to report that we anticipate using the test in the current mission to Exuma. We must prepare ourselves to embrace this form of testing,” Minister Wells said. 

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