Country “playing catch up” with contact tracing

Country “playing catch up” with contact tracing

Govt. establishes Contact Tracing Command Centre

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Health officials have ramped up efforts to increase testing and contact tracing capacity amid significant delays, and a continued surge in new cases.

Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis announced yesterday that a Contact Tracing Command Centre has been established at the Melia Hotel.

“This center will strengthen the Surveillance Unit’s ability to identify new cases and contacts, and to intervene with the appropriate measures,” the prime minister said during a national address last night.

“Health officials anticipate an increase in the number of new cases over a short period of time.

“A decrease in new cases is anticipated once all new cases and contacts have been identified.”

There were 20 new cases of COVID-19 confirmed yesterday, taking the number of cases in the country to 898.  New cases have increased by 794 cases since the country reopened its borders on July 1.

Of the new cases, 15 were in Grand Bahama, and five in New Providence.

Officials have completed 6,343 tests, according to the latest dashboard.

Last week, Chief Medical Officer Dr Pearl McMillian revealed that the National Reference Lab was receiving upward to 200 tests per day.

“We are getting out just recently just 150, so we do have a significant number to get through in order to be up to speed, ” McMillian revealed.

“I think we have a very committed team in there and we have augmented the capacities and we anticipate that they will be working throughout the weekend to be able to try and keep moving these specimen through and as we do additional contact tracing, we anticipate that we may need to do more tests.”

She noted the while health capacity was able to provide results with 24-hours during the first wave of cases, the turnaround period can extend from 48 hours to 72 hours.

“We are significantly enhancing our capacities to be able to get as close as the 24-hour as before and we are also beginning to utilize a second technology to be able to ensure that in the acute care areas that we are able to get our results more quickly,” McMillian continued.

“So we are working on it, we still have some backlog, we can not give the exact number, but we anticipate that we will have that sorted within the next week or so.”

The CMO further advised that a Contact Tracing Strike Force was activated in New Providence, with the compliment of contact tracers increased to 30 individuals, and 25 more are expected to be added to the pool.

“At the beginning of this exercise, 250 cases and their contacts had not been engaged,” she said

“We are playing catchup, but the good news is our contact tracing efforts are yielding fruit.”

“…We will not stem the tide of this second wave, until all cases and their contacts are identified.”

The Melia centre will be manned by a group of public health experts with support from the Surveillance Unit, National Health Insurance program, other government ministries and agencies, and private partnerships, including Aliv and the Melia Hotel.

The prime minister yesterday urged members of the public to cooperate fully and honestly if contacted by the surveillance unit.

“Your responsible behavior can help reduce the spread of COVID-19 in The Bahamas,” he said.