PAHO/WHO: The Bahamas COVID-19 outbreak risks national and intl. public health

PAHO/WHO: The Bahamas COVID-19 outbreak risks national and intl. public health
Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and World Health Organization (WHO) representative in The Bahamas and Turks and Caicos Dr. Esther Mary de Gourville. File Photo.

Social, economic, political, and cultural differences compromise the country’s ability to respond to the pandemic

NASSAU, BAHAMAS – PAHO/WHO Representative in The Bahamas Dr Esther de Gourville yesterday said the current COVID-19 outbreak in The Bahamas presents a risk to both “national and international public health”.

De Gourville urged all stakeholders to take an “all of society” and unified approach to addressing the outbreak in the country, in a statement that followed a series of meetings with high-level government and health officials.

She explained that during meetings with stakeholders she outlined trends in the COVID-19 local outbreak that show an expansion of the outbreak from three to 14 islands in The Bahamas by October and an approximately 40-fold rise in cases and eight-fold rise in deaths since July 2020.

Additional trends include infection and deaths reported among health care workers; a shift in the age distribution of cases and people who died, with more cases and deaths now being reported among individuals aged between 20 and 40; and a recent trend of at least one COVID-19 death per day. 

De Gourville also pointed to the increasingly overwhelmed health care services; and the escalating health costs to expand human resources for clinical, contact tracing, and data management capacities, along with social support for unemployed people and vulnerable groups.

“Of concern, The Bahamas is heavily dependent on the tourism sector and the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak has resulted in a few countries issuing travel warnings advising their citizens to restrict non-essential travel to The Bahamas,” de Gourville said.

“The current COVID-19 outbreak in the Bahamas is a risk to both national and international public health.”

The PAHO/WHO representative underscored the urgent need to strengthen public health interventions on affected islands where case counts continue to rise.

She further insisted that a balance must be struck between public health and economic activity, to protect lives while economic activities continue in ways appropriate to the current context.

“Only a united Bahamian society can bring the COVID-10 outbreak under control in The Bahamas,” she said.

“Social, economic, political, and cultural differences compromise the country’s ability to respond to the pandemic. 

“All stakeholders and every member of the public must be united in solidarity, resolve and resilience to stop virus transmission, prevent deaths, and ensure the continuity of essential social and health services while protecting front-line workers and vulnerable populations.”

Dr de Gourville met with Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis, Cabinet ministers, Leader of the Opposition Philip Brave Davis, parliamentarians from both the government and opposition parties and members of the Chamber of Commerce.

Senior policymakers from the Ministry of Health and Dr Merceline Dahl-Regis, health consultant in the Office of the Prime Minister, were also present in joint discussions with stakeholders.

The prime minister announced additional restrictive measures for New Providence and Abaco last week, including a 24-hour lockdown during the holiday weekend.

Both islands are currently on a 7pm – 5am curfew, with another 24-hour weekend lockdown starting this Friday at 7pm until Monday (October 19) at 5am.