NEW ANTI-COVID MODEL: Emergency orders to end while testing to increase, minister pledges

NEW ANTI-COVID MODEL: Emergency orders to end while testing to increase, minister pledges

“We will remove and redefine the role and duties of the competent authority”

Minister says free COVID testing coming to New Providence, Grand Bahama and other Family Islands

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Minister of Health and Wellness Dr Michael Darville gave notice in Parliament yesterday that the government will not renew the current COVID-19 emergency orders once they expire on November 13.

During his address, Darville advised that the government will lay new regulations by way of the existing Health Services Act to govern management of the pandemic.

“Already we are in talks with the Office of the Attorney General to devise fresh new legislation to address the management of major health risks in The Bahamas,” he said.

Minister of Health and Wellness Dr Michael Darville speaks in the House of Assembly yesterday.

“As part of this legislation, we will remove and redefine the role and duties of the competent authority.”

A public state of emergency has been in effect since last March, along with teetering lockdowns and daily curfews. There have been four separate proclamations since the first one last year, with the extension of the latest one set to end on November 13.

The removal of the emergency orders is among the Davis administration’s campaign promises included in the Speech from the Throne.

During the last sitting of Parliament under the Minnis administration, former Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis tabled a new bill that would put in place a statutory framework to mitigate public health emergencies.

It remains unclear whether the Minnis administration’s bill will be utilized in the way forward.

As of Monday, there were 22, 306 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in The Bahamas, with 1,157 active cases and 86 people hospitalized.

The number of deaths currently stands at 643, with another 60 under investigation after health officials confirmed the latest death of a 63-year-old man on October 5.

Darville noted yesterday that over the past 28 days, the seven-day moving average of new cases for the entire Bahamas has decreased from 63 new cases down to 22 new cases per day.

He explained that for New Providence, the trend has moved from 51 new cases to 19 new cases per day, and for the Family Islands, cases have declined from nine new cases to three new cases per day.

A healthcare worker administers a COVID-19 test to an Inagua resident in October 2021.

There were several clusters of cases on multiple Family Islands across the country, with islands such as Eleuthera, Mayaguana, Inagua, Long Island and San Salvador seeing significant increases in infections and deaths in recent weeks.

Darville advised yesterday that the government will expand its testing program and roll out free antigen testing on New Providence, Grand Bahama and other Family Islands.

He noted that 183 residents on Inagua, roughly 20 percent of the island’s population, received free testing in the government’s rollout of its pilot free rapid antigen testing program.

Of those individuals tested, three were COVID-19-positive, with two being from the same family.

All of those cases were asymptomatic and have been isolated.

He said contract tracing has ruled out community spread on the island.

Darville advised that testing teams will move to North Eleuthera to conduct free rapid antigen tests on Harbour Island, Gregory Town and Lower Bogue due to a spike in cases; and from there, officials will move to the Berry Islands to conduct a similar exercise.

The health and wellness minister said that over the next 100 days, his ministry will unveil the new structural adjustments needed and focus on creating structured health system integration that involves improving organization and governance.

About Sloan Smith

Sloan Smith is a senior digital reporter at Eyewitness News, covering a diverse range of beats, from politics and crime to environment and human interest. In 2018, Sloan received a nomination for the “Leslie Higgs Feature Writer of The Year Award” from The Bahamas Press Club for her work with Eyewitness News.