NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Amidst ongoing efforts to safeguard The Bahamas from the global outbreak of a novel coronavirus – which originated in Wuhan, China – the Royal Bahamas Defense Force is adjusting its protocols to adequately prepare for any necessary response.
The Ministry of Health advised yesterday that there remains no suspected, reported or confirmed cases of the respiratory illness in The Bahamas.
Days following the government’s implementation of travel restrictions on people who have recently travelled to China, at least 10 Bahamian residents have been quarantined at designated sites.
The ban denies entry into the country to any non-resident who has visited China in the last 20 and places all returning residents from the country in quarantine for 14 days.
“The individuals monitored currently have no symptoms of the virus,” the ministry said in a statement.
“Considering that The Bahamas has multiple ports of entry, other quarantine sites will be established, if necessary.”
The ministry’s Novel Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Plan has been developed and distributed to Bahamian ports of entry and health care facilities – focusing on monitoring and evaluating the risk of the introduction of virus to The Bahamas.
“The Ministry of Health has confirmed the availability of required Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), and established refresher training sessions on the effective use of PPEs,” the statement continued.
“The mechanism for laboratory diagnosis has also been instituted.
“A review of the command system for the Ministry of Health has been conducted with clearly defined triggers for activation of the Ministry’s Emergency Operation Centre.”
The virus has spread to at least 27 countries worldwide and had nearly 25,000 cases up to last night, with the death toll just shy of 500. epicenter of the outbreak
Wuhan City, which is home to some 11 million people and several Bahamians, remain on lockdown.
The World Health organization has declared the outbreak “a public health emergency of international concern”.
Speaking to the RBDF’s response to the matter during a meet and greet luncheon at the defense force Coral Harbour base, Acting Commander Dr. Raymond King said his organization has been a part of briefing with health officials and are developing operation plans.
“We have their latest iteration of their plans and our commander of operations, he is in the process of formatting all of that technical jargon and incorporating it into our control or operational plan for effectively dealing with any potential incidents,” he said.
“One or two circumstances that we would look at is what if we encounter vessels at sea with persons who are migrant status and we will have to screen those persons”.
He noted that in those scenarios, it will be a matter of shadowing the vessels, guiding them into port and notifying the health officials ahead of time so that they can incorporate the necessary protocols, or take them to the nearest port of call without actively engaging them.
“We intend to follow the protocol as established by the Ministry of Health, PAHO and those agencies,” King said.
“Our ships commanding officers, they will have their orders simplified, in terms of the personal protective equipment they will need to adorn and how they should respond.”
RBDF Commander of Operations Chapelle Whyms noted that these procedures will not be new to the organization, given that they have had to previously deal with communicable disease.
“However, what we have sought to do is update our present standard operating procedures so that we can accommodate not only the coronavirus but in recent times there was the Ebola virus that we also had to prepare for,” Whyms said.
“So we need to make sure our vessels, particularly our ports of entry, had the information they needed in order to address anything that may come up because it is nothing new that we have been dealing with.”