By Llonella Gilbert
NASSAU, The Bahamas — Minister of Health the Hon. Dr. Duane Sands stated as of Tuesday, 24th March 2020 the Ministry of Health has confirmed five cases of COVID-19 in The Bahamas with the latest case being the first on the island of Grand Bahama.
During a press conference at the Health Ministry on Tuesday, March 24, Dr. Sands said the previously announced four cases are in New Providence.
“The latest case is in Grand Bahama and has no significant travel history. Contact-tracing is aggressively underway.”
He added that the first confirmed case will be discharged today from hospital.
“Health officials continue to follow the condition of the three other COVID-19-positive cases in New Providence, who remain in isolation at home and do not require hospitalization at this time. They are in stable condition. These three cases are contacts of the first case.”
The Health Minister explained that the Ministry of Health has communicated with the majority of those who have been in contact with the initial case.
He stated that the Ministry of Health Surveillance Unit in New Providence is working closely with Grand Bahama to carry out contact-tracing.
Dr. Sands announced that at this time, close to 200 people have been tested in The Bahamas for COVID-19 following the agreed international protocols.
“COVID-19 remains a serious threat and the Ministry is working hard to mitigate the spread of this coronavirus and to save lives. More than eighteen thousand people have died from the virus worldwide.
“As I indicated on Sunday past, the Ministry has expanded its testing capacity. There are 1,750 test kits on New Providence, and the first 300 of 10,000 rapid test kits have arrived.”
He said an additional 2,500 test kits are expected to be in New Providence by mid-week.
The Health Minister stressed that to better respond to the public demand for information, at least 30 nurses and physicians have been oriented to manage our virtual call centre.
Persons can call the 24-hour Hotline at 502-7382; 376-9350 from 8am to 8pm; 376-9387 from 8pm to 8am, and toll free (242) 300-2619.
The call centre is reserved for COVID-19-related questions. It is not for general medical questions unrelated to COVID-19.
Members of the public are asked to only call with COVID-19-related questions and when calling to please have their NIB number available.
Dr. Sands noted that Family Island health teams are working closely with island administrators and other allied health workers to ensure the health and safety of residents.
“The Ministry of Health is in the process of establishing three food and medicine distribution centres in New Providence that will be strategically located in Central, East and South locations on the island.
He said these centres will operate as pick-up sites, only, in an effort to enforce physical distancing.
The Minister said to help prevent the spread of the virus, it important that individuals practice physical distancing.
“Physical distancing is crucial to halting the spread of this deadly virus. As a surgeon and Minister of Health I advise you to follow the Regulations and to stay at home and away from others as much as is possible.”
He stressed, “Do not invite friends and family over. Do not have parties. Isolate yourselves in your homes and on your properties with your family.”
Dr. Sands said, “How the next few weeks play out depend on how well you follow the public health advice we give, and the Regulations imposed.”
Minister of State for Grand Bahama in the Office of the Prime Minister, Senator the Hon. Kwasi Thompson was also on hand to tell Grand Bahama residents not to panic and listen out for further updates.