NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Opposition Leader Philip Brave Davis said yesterday there has not been enough COVID-19 testing or contact tracing in place to stop “a few cases from turning into a few thousand” in The Bahamas.
During debate in Parliament, Davis reflected on the country’s borders reopening to international commercial carriers on July 1, noting that by early August, the virus was rapidly spreading throughout the islands.
He said this was not the case in many other countries who reopened at the time.
“I point you to Barbados and other countries in our region, which have not experienced anything close to the scale of the outbreak we have seen and are now seeing here,” Davis said.
“Mr Speaker, this spread in infection resulted in thousands of Bahamians contracting the virus for the past few months, along with fellow parliamentarians and members of staff of this place.
He continued: “I was one of them. While each of us is unable to say specifically how we joined our fellow Bahamians as a dashboard statistic, the overall picture is clear; our borders reopened despite what almost immediately became clear — the government had not used the many long months of curfew and lockdowns to prepare properly.
“Today, I want to emphasize how crucial it is that the doctors and nurses on our frontlines finally be heard and respected. They are asking for more resources. They tell us they need more testing, quicker results, faster tracing, more beds, and more staff.
“We owe them this much at least.”
As of yesterday, 20,261 tests had been performed in The Bahamas.
On a point of order, Minister of Health Renward Wells refuted the testing claim, insisting health officials had “dramatically” increased testing in The Bahamas and acquired new equipment to perform COVID-19 tests.
He said The Bahamas went from performing 300 tests per day in July to being able to perform almost 1,000 tests per day more recently.
As for resources, Wells said 71 junior nurses who passed the nursing program and were “in the system Mr Speaker working along with nurses” were scheduled to take their exams on November 1.
He also said 29 Bahamian doctors or SHO’s (senior house officers) were hired in the last two months.
Davis said: “There was not enough testing or tracing in place to stop a few cases from turning into thousands. This is what happened and continues to happen. Each day you are having an average of over 50 and yet the government appears to be doing nothing other than insisting that tourists come back soon, and this to me is baffling.”
Minister of Public Works Desmond Bannister, the MP for Carmichael, said Davis was insulting the very hardworking doctors and nurses, whom the opposition leader commended for their work on the frontlines.
“If the member is to compliment our doctors and nurses as he did; if he is to compliment all of those hardworking persons there in the health service, he cannot say what he just said,” Bannister said.
“And I know Cat Island (Davis) you didn’t mean to say that because you are insulting doctors. You are insulting our nurses. You are insulting the hardworking people in our health infrastructure.”
Davis rejected the assertion.
He also criticized the government’s performance with mitigating the virus claiming The Bahamas has performed poorly in the region.
Yamacraw MP Elsworth Johnson suggested Davis refused to attend meetings with the prime minister and health experts aimed at creating strategic response plans to the virus — a claimed Davis dismissed insisting the prime minister knew why he did not attend certain meetings.