COVID-19 2nd Wave more vicious and tenacious

RENWARD WELLS, Minister of Health

Minister of Health Renward Wells stated that with the second wave surge in COVID-19, the nation has witnessed a more vicious and tenacious spread of this virus within and across nearly all its inhabited islands.

“As of September 8, 2020, we have now recorded a cumulative total 2,657 confirmed cases,” Minister Wells said during his COVID-19 Update Communication in the House of Assembly, Wednesday, September 9, 2020.

He explained that females currently account for 48 per cent of all cases and males, 52 percent. An overall look at all cases show that the majority of cases, 41 per cent fall in the 20 – 39 age group with the 40-59 age group close behind accounting for 36 percent.

Minister Wells explained that the Ministry of Health continues to execute a comprehensive COVID-19 response strategy to meet the significant demands being placed on the healthcare system and to ensure the well-being of all Bahamians and residents.

He said case identification testing and treatment, along with aggressive contact tracing, isolation and quarantine as appropriate remains a key element.

“Encouraging adherence to prevention measures like frequent hand sanitizing, wearing of mask and physical distancing is another essential element in our strategy for the avoidance of more restrictive measures aimed at slowing the spread of the virus.

“These measures collectively mitigate individual and collective consequences to our health social and economic well-being.”

The Health Minister noted that Ministry of Health officials have bolstered their surveillance strategy to minimize spread and manage the risk of COVID-19, thereby enabling economic and social activity to resume to the extent possible.

He said surveillance is also necessary to monitor the longer-term trends of COVID- 19 transmission and the changes in the virus.

Minister Wells explained that with the onset of this second wave, the precipitous increase in cases with an average of 15 to 20 contacts per case, the capacities within the Disease Surveillance Unit became quickly exhausted.

“As a remedy, volunteers were solicited and trained in contact tracing principles with good success. We can now report that 62 volunteers now work alongside the 71 surveillance and other reassigned health care workers.”

He added: “Our testing strategy has also expanded with testing priorities clearly articulated to maximize use of scarce resources. All avenues for procurement of additional kits and reagents are being explored recognizing the existing global challenge.

Minister Wells said thanks to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the National Reference Laboratory (NRL) can run two sets of 96 samples per day if the samples are prepared with the requisite support.

“Staff at the NRL, with the help of newly hired staff, have worked arduously to eliminate the previously reported backlogs with sample turnaround time now back to 24 – 48 hours. Data validation is ongoing to ensure that we are well-aware of where we are in this wave.”

He stated that currently, there are two GeneXpert machines and one Panther Fusion System being used at the Princess Margaret Hospital to provide diagnostic RT-PCR testing for the COVID-19 virus in the acute care setting. “We are also benefitting from private sector laboratory capacities which have now come on stream.”

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