NASSAU, BAHAMAS — The Progressive Liberal Party’s (PLP) COVID-19 Task Force today urged the government to increase testing for COVID-19 with an aim to capture at least one percent of the population and gradually increase to 10 percent — around 40,000 people.
It said manpower and financial resources allocated for both molecular PCR testing and serological or rapid testing must be increased in order to gauge the epidemiology of the virus.
According to the task force, it should be the goal of health officials to test one percent of the population — around 4,000 people — and gradually increase to 10 percent of 40,000 people.
“This may seem ambitious, but it is necessary if we wish to position ourselves to open the economy in the near future,” the PLP task force said.
The task force also recommended additional training in sample collection for all healthcare professionals involved in the process to limit false negatives, and improve the overall accuracy of the exercise.
Minister of Health Dr Duane Sands said last week expanded testing would begin with healthcare professionals, senior citizens in nursing homes and inmates at the Department of Correctional Services.
The PLP task force suggested expanded this list to include all people in quarantine; shop servers and cashiers; port workers and severs in the restaurant and hotel sector; transportation workers and those who express an interest in being tested.
The task force also called for people in quarantined to be better managed, as the current process which relies on individuals due diligence and compliance “could increase the possibly of community spread, particularly in situation where persons are houses in close quarters with other who many not have been otherwise exposed to the virus”.
Additionally, it said the contact tracing team in the Surveillance Unit needs to be shored up.
In its recommendations, the PLP’s task force said the statistical data presented to the nation indicates “we are still in the exponential phase of this devastating pandemic”, even after a month of curfews and lockdowns.
According to the prime minister and health experts, the emergency measures and restriction of movement has yielded positive results and helped to slow the acceleration of new cases.
But the PLP’s task force said the data reflects that the action undertaken by the government to date has not resulted in flattening the curve of new cases, and community spread in the nation has become a “real challenge”.
“In April, we are seeing a quickening in the pace of persons who have tested positive with a daily average of positive cases pegged at around 2.4 so far this month, compared to just under one per day on average in March,” the recommendation paper said.
“We are also seeing an increase in the number of younger persons who have tested positive for the virus.
“In the past three weeks, approximately 10 persons under the age of 40 tested positive for COVID-19 with three persons in that group being hospitalized as a result of respiratory complications.
“It is now evident that community spread, particularly in New Providence, Grand Bahama and Bimini is threatening the lives of Bahamians from all walks of life.
“What is also troubling about this information is that at the time the number of cases are escalating, we are seeing a reduction in the number of active healthcare workers due to the fact that a large number of those persons have been placed in quarantine in self isolation.”
As of Wednesday, there were 100 healthcare workers in either self-isolation or quarantine due to potential exposure to the virus.
There were 72 cases of COVID-19 in The Bahamas as of yesterday.
There have been 14 additional cases this week.
The task force is chaired by Senators Dr Melissa Evans and Dr Michael Darville, the former minister for Grand Bahama.