NASSAU, BAHAMAS –The Ministry of Health has confirmed that it is “aware” of and following a possible incident of COVID-19 exposure involving a group of people recently traveling from Trinidad and Tobago carnival.
The revelation comes as officials ramp up their contact-tracing efforts after four people tested positive for the respiratory illness to date.
The first case, a 61-year-old woman, reportedly remains in hospital in stable condition and is being managed in isolation.
Contact tracing investigations have already revealed that household members of that patient traveled to Canada, Trinidad and Dubai – territories with known community transmission.
Officials have confirmed the three succeeding cases are contacts of the woman and they remain in isolation at home and do not require hospitalisation at this time.
During a Sunday press conference advising the public of ongoing COVID19 response, officials were asked about circulating reports that Bahamians on board a flight from Trinidad carnival may have been exposed to the virus.
“I can assure you, we are fully aware of a related matter that involve air travel with a group of persons who might have been exposed,” said Dr Mercline Dahl-Regis, Bahamian public health expert, with specialty in regional disease elimination.
“We have the names, the lists, the contacts and we are following not only those who were on the plane for transport services but the staff that assisted them as well.”
Dahl-Regis did not provide details of the flight in question or how many people might have been exposed.
Eyewitness News understands that some individuals reportedly on that flight contacted officials and were informed that they don’t qualify for testing.
Chief Medical Officer Dr. Pearl McMillan revealed that the first confirmed case would have come into contact with about 45 people and the second case with about 75 people.
The extent of contact with other COVID-19 patients was not released.
“To date we have tested 117 persons and we have only the four positive cases,” McMillan said.
“Our testing is ongoing based on our criteria for testing, and of course that number will be changing as we continue our contact tracing and continue to test persons who present with symptoms and meet our criteria.”
McMillan assured that the ministry has implemented aggressive strategies to handle contact tracing and data management.
However, Health Minister Dr Duane Sands warned the country not to have a false sense of security over the low number of COVID-19 cases in the country.
Sands said while officials received some gratification from the apparent lull in cases, there are concerns about the possibility of a “surge in the near future”.
“We do not believe that we should in any way restrain our efforts to both mitigate this but also to identify and to manage any patients,” he said.
The ministry is following the new cases in real time and monitoring how the health system is performing and will be able to have better idea of the extent of response required within 14 days of the first case.
A state of emergency was declared on Tuesday, just two days after the first confirmed case. The government has also implemented emergency orders enforcing limitation of movement and a curfew.