NASSAU, BAHAMAS — There were four confirmed cases of COVID-19 identified in the first round of testing for the government’s new travel testing regime, according to Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Delon Brennen.
On November 1, The Bahamas implemented a new testing regime for re-entry into the country that requires an RT-PCR COVID test no more than five days before the date of arrival, a health visa and a rapid antigen test five days after arrival in the country.
During the Ministry of Health’s press conference, Brennen said between November 1 and November 12, there were 5,584 visa applications for individuals traveling into The Bahamas.
Of those applicants, 2,492 were residents, citizens or work permit holders; 1, 842 registered as visitors staying longer than five days; and 1,250 were visitors staying less than five days.
He explained that data up to November 6 show there were 1,691 travelers who came into the country. Of that number, 939 did not have follow-up testing done — which includes individuals who didn’t stay over the five-day period.
There were 752 travelers who were compliant with the five-day testing protocol.
The results revealed four positive cases — one Bahamian and three work permit holders.
The four cases were travelers on New Providence and Grand Bahama.
Brennen said all of the individuals have been added to the ministry’s case investigation and contact tracing mechanism.
He noted that all of the individuals had negative RT-PCR tests prior to traveling and exhibited no symptoms during travel, so the risk of transmitting the virus during their travel time period is small.
Antigen testing in The Bahamas
While the RT-PCR test remains the gold standard for testing in The Bahamas, Chief Medical Officer Dr Pearl McMillian advised that health officials are moving to incorporate antigen testing in the country’s national protocol.
McMillian said the ministry is inviting all entities that are seeking to conduct antigen testing to register with the Ministry of Health in order to ensure that tests that occur on symptomatic people are being reported and the necessary contact tracing is conducted.
Exumas and Ragged Island MP Chester Cooper yesterday announced free rapid antigen testing will be made available on the island next week through his #TEAMCooper campaign.
Di-Ara Comprehensive Medical Center — which is a part of the government’s travel testing regime — will be handling the test results, and indicated that confidentially will be assured.
Asked whether the government is considering embarking on similar public-private partnership programs to implement antigen testing, Minister of Health Renward Wells said the government will adhere to its very strict and laid-out protocols and guidelines for testing.
Wells said: “We would like to discourage anyone just simply going out, purchasing any sort of COIVID-19 test and then testing themselves or organizations or institutions doing so without being a part of the overall testing apparatus and without the additional requirement for the reporting lines of communication that are necessary.”