The following statement was issued by Senator Michael Darville, Shadow Minister of Health on the current state of affairs with regard to Covid 19 in The Bahamas:
We note with alarm the sharp increase in the number of persons newly infected with COVID-19 and the recent announcement that the PMH is at capacity with COVID-19 patients. This information comes on the heels of reports that the highly transmissible Delta variant is spreading exponentially, especially in nations and communities with low vaccination rates.
Medical data has shown that persons who have been fully vaccinated against the virus are unlikely to contract the virus and in rare cases when they have, they suffer mild symptoms that require no hospitalization. To date, less than 10% of our population has been fully vaccinated and nearly every other Caribbean nation has vaccinated a larger share of their population.
We remain perplexed as to why the Government has lagged behind our Caribbean neighbours in accessing vaccines and the reason why, at this stage, we have had to borrow vaccines from Antigua and Barbuda. It is imperative that the government levels with the Bahamian people regarding the sourcing of additional vaccines and the timetable for these vaccines to be delivered to us. Have we requested and expect to receive enough vaccines to ensure sufficient supply to facilitate the vaccination of a critical mass of persons so that we can see a reduction in the number of persons who develop serious symptoms after being exposed to the virus?
In addition to the issue of supply of vaccines, the government has done little in terms of counteracting the misinformation circulating locally in social media concerning the vaccine and in educating the Bahamian public regarding the importance of becoming vaccinated. We have seen the prime minister in nonstop ads on television and the internet concerning his tenure as head of government but complete silence in that space regarding matters that are of such critical importance to the Bahamian people.
The Ministry of Health appears to be operating in a very haphazard manner and as far as we are aware has yet to confirm the results of COVID-19 samples submitted to labs abroad weeks ago for testing to determine the strains of the virus present in our country.
The efforts of this government in managing the spread of COVID-19 in our country has been inadequate and we call on the government to move aggressively to protect the health and lives of Bahamians, reduce the strain on our health care system, and prevent further lockdowns and damage to our economy using the 10point plan as follows:
- Speed vaccinations. We must access other credible medical supply chains to get FDA-approved vaccines and prioritize sourcing vaccines with the best efficacy against emerging variants.
- Prioritize public education. Public education efforts continue to be almost invisible if not non-existent. Admonishing Bahamians to get vaccinated does not qualify as public education; the public’s response to being berated daily speaks for itself. A media campaign and town halls with medical professionals should be organized to address the public’s questions about vaccines and to help Bahamians reduce risk in their daily lives.
- Expand testing and make it free. Widespread and frequent rapid testing remains an important way to stop transmission chains and avoid lockdowns. COVID-19 tests should be free for all Bahamians and rapid antigen testing expanded as a risk mitigation tool.
- Improve contact tracing. We continue to receive reports that contact tracing is happening too slowly or not at all. This is an important public health tool that has been under-utilized. Primary and secondary contacts should be reached within 24 hours of a patient receiving a positive test result.
- Hire and retain nurses. It is vital that we hire, train, and retain medical professionals; pay them what they are owed; and consult them on how best to manage the pandemic.
- Procure better masks. High-quality masks are needed, especially for those who interact with large numbers of people in the course of their employment and for those whose underlying medical conditions make them susceptible. The government should provide medical-grade masks to frontline workers, including health care professionals and immigration, police, and defence force officers, as well as making a supply available to the general public.
- Improve ventilation. It has been clear for at least a year that COVID-19 is an airborne virus, but the government has provided no technical guidance or support to improve indoor air quality in schools, health care settings, churches, workspaces, and multi-generational homes.
- Isolate. Providing safe, adequate facilities for COVID-19 positive individuals to isolate will protect families and communities. Isolation protocols must be in place for hospitals and clinics.
- Track the science. New studies are published almost daily regarding vaccine efficacy against the Delta variants. The Competent Authority should consult with scientific, medical, and business communities regarding testing requirements for vaccinated travellers and make these consultations transparent.
- Build trust. Pandemic spending must finally be made transparent. The details of hundreds of millions of dollars in spending remain undisclosed to the public. The Competent Authority cannot ask the public to trust its leadership while it violates its own laws.