Wells: ‘Health Ministry monitoring increased COVID-19 positive cases

HEALTH OFFICIALS MONITORING INCREASED CASES – Minister of Health Renward Wells said that health officials are monitoring the recent increased number of COVID-19 cases in Grand Bahama and other islands. (BIS PHOTO: PATRICK HANNA)

The Ministry of Health has been closely monitoring the increase in the number of confirmed COVID-19 positive cases and hospitalizations since March, 2021.

This, according to Minister of Health Renward Wells, Wednesday, April 7 – during the ministry’s national COVID-19 update press conference.

The ministry’s intense scrutiny is as a result of a marked increase in cases in Grand Bahama, Abaco and New Providence in the month of March.

Locally, there were more than 55 cases reported in Grand Bahama between March 21 to March 31.

“There has been a marked increase in COVID-19 positive cases on the islands of New Providence, Grand Bahama and Abaco. The same trend has also been noted on the Island of Eleuthera,” the minister told media personnel.

“Notably, there has been an overall increase in the number of hospitalizations in The Bahamas since March 2021. Hospitalizations for March 2021 were highest on Grand Bahama, followed by New Providence. However, based on yesterday’s (Tuesday, April 6) data, hospitalizations in Grand Bahama decreased. Health officials will continue to monitor this situation,” he added.

Wells noted that currently, there are a total of 23 beds available on Grand Bahama for COVID-19 patients – 16 beds at the Cancer Association of The Bahamas, and seven beds at the Infectious Disease Centre.

He assured that the Ministry of Health stands ready to cope with the current number of hospitalizations in the country.

“With the emergence of COVID-19 variants in the United States of America, the question continues to arise, are any COVID-19 variants in The Bahamas?

“Fifty-two COVID-19 positive samples collected from New Providence, Grand Bahama, Eleuthera, Exuma, Bimini and Andros were sent to the Fiocruz Laboratory in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for baseline genomic sequencing analysis. Twenty-eight of these samples were successfully sequenced. None of the samples was found to have COVID-19 variants of public health concern.

“When a variant is of public health concern, this means it can affect the transmissibility of the COVID-19 virus or affect the efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccine being administered.

“The results show that there was no evidence of variants of public health concern in The Bahamas at the time the samples were taken. However, our healthcare professionals remain vigilant in this regard,” said the minister.

He revealed that the National Reference Laboratory received reagents to conduct initial screening for the mutations that characterize variants of concern.

Additionally, the laboratory will utilize RT-PCR based techniques to detect these variants.

“These tests will provide further insight into the transmission and prevalence of variants of concern in The Bahamas in real-time. This testing will also help the National Reference Laboratory to prioritize samples for genomic sequencing.

“Ten samples collected in March 2021, were sent to the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) this past week to conduct sequencing. The National Reference Laboratory has also developed a new National Respiratory Surveillance Genomics Database, where COVID-19 genomic sequencing will be deposited for genetic analysis at a higher level. This will improve surveillance data and epidemiological decision making.”

As the country emerges from the Easter celebrations, Wells reminded the citizenry to continually reflect on the resurrection of the Lord and Savior, Yeshua, the Christ. “We are grateful to Almighty God, The Lord of life, for this season of life. In appreciation for the sanctity of life, let us continue to adhere to the public health precautions. Wear your masks, continually practice social distancing, avoid large gatherings and do not forget to frequently wash your hands.

“We must not let our guards down. We must continue to take the necessary precautions. We must work hard to prevent the possibility of a third wave.”

Wells said that to date, The Bahamas has received a total of 53,600 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

He added that continuing with PAHO, The Bahamas is scheduled to receive an additional 67,200 vaccines through the COVAX Facility.

“The government continues to work on all fronts to secure additional vaccines from approved providers. To date, more than 10,000 first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered to Bahamians and residents. We are vaccinating over 1,000 individuals per day and we are actively working to increase this number. Vaccines have been administered at centers in New Providence, Grand Bahama and Eleuthera.

“I take this opportunity to encourage all to take the vaccine at the earliest opportunity when it becomes available for your group or subset of our population.”

The minister noted that the ministry is aware that some Bahamians may have obtained their COVID-19 vaccine in the United States.

“The Ministry of Health requests that persons who have obtained a vaccine from outside of The Bahamas relay that information to us – call 502-7283, 376-9350 or 511; report that you have already taken the vaccine; and leave your name, the date you received the vaccination and the country where the vaccine was obtained.

“This,” he said, “allows the Ministry of Health to update its local records and properly allocate vaccines and to properly account for you. As we work to limit the spread of the virus through vaccination: stay disciplined. Be vigilant. Take personal responsibility and continually apply public health preventative measures.

“Let us continue to work together to make our country safe from COVID-19,” said the minister.

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