Coronavirus: Don’t wait for a confirmed case, start preventative measures now

Coronavirus: Don’t wait for a confirmed case, start preventative measures now
  • No confirmed case as of 5.30pm Saturday, seven in quarantine

  • MOE says schools to remain open, but intl. travel suspended

  • Global spread surpasses 150,000 cases

NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Chief Medical Officer Dr. Pearl McMillan yesterday urged residents to begin preventative measures to mitigate the spread of the new coronavirus as the country cannot shut down its borders over the pandemic.

Cases of the virus – which causes the COVID-19 disease – have topped 152,000 globally with the United States declaring a national emergency and countries like France, Spain and the Philippines shutting down non-essential businesses and implementing full or partial lockdowns.

Today, COVID-19 has spread across 49 states in the United States with more than 2,700 cases.

McMillan, who heads the national coordination committee on COVID-19, spoke to Eyewitness News at 5.30pm on Saturday.

She maintained there have been no confirmed cases in the country, telling Eyewitness News social media reports of a positive test were false.

However, she maintained it was important not to wait for a confirmed case to begin protection measures as local transmission was inevitable.

“Don’t wait for a confirmed case, I think that is one of the key things we are trying to get persons to understand,” she said.

“Begin to adopt preventative measures.”

“We are testing people, we have a protocol and are taking off samples,” she continued.

“There have been no positive tests. Nothing has come back positive, we are following international protocol and once we get a proper case we will send out a notice.

“We need to get the hype down. We are monitoring and should we get a positive case we will inform the public.”

The government has implemented border control and quarantine measures for China, Italy, South Korea and Iran.

However, residents in San Salvador have expressed fears current measures do not go far enough to protect vulnerable communities.

Several people reached out to Eyewitness News after a direct flight from France landed on the island on Thursday.

The global death toll hurdled 5,000 on Saturday – and that number stood at 91 in France.

With nearly 4,500 cases, French Prime Minister Édouard Philippe announced the country will ramp up social distancing measures in a bid to stave off the spread of the pandemic.

Philippe ordered all non-essential businesses shutdown starting at midnight Saturday, including the closure of ski resorts.

Food stores, pharmacies, gas stations, banks, newspaper and tobacco stores will remain open, he said, along with places of worship.

However, religious ceremonies and gatherings will be postponed.

Yesterday, McMillan pointed out health teams traveled to San Salvador last week to meet with stakeholders, assess concerns and prepare officials “for any eventuality”.

“We are in a pandemic now,” she continued, “that means every country, nearly over 100 countries now have cases. The countries we singled out initially were because they were reporting ongoing transmission and increase in new cases.

“But things are changing every minute, for us to say we’re going to close this place down, it would be impossible to close all your borders. We’re working with border control, and healthcare as it relates to screening.

McMillan said: “We need the communities more than anything else to recognize this is beyond a few countries. We have not closed all of our borders, which we cannot close, so we need to get them involved.

“We need to mobilize the community to begin to do those things. The reality is 80 percent of people who get infected may not be sick enough to go to hospital but they still transmit (the virus).

“So if you’re not feeling well, if you got a fever, yes it could just be the flu, but at this point it’s moving in the direction it could be COVID.”

In a statement yesterday, the Ministry of Education announced schools will remain open as officials continue to monitor the pandemic.

However, all international travel approved by the ministry has been suspended until further notice.

The MOE statement advised any cases of flu-like symptoms should be reported to the Surveillance Unit at the Department of Public Health at 502-4776, 502-4728, 502-4790, and 397-1021.

Preventative measures include: social distancing; frequent and thorough hand washing; use of hand sanitizer; disinfecting frequently touched surfaces; fully cooking meat and eggs; and avoiding close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing.