RECONSIDER: CPSA urges govt to rethink easing travel restrictions; recommends continued testing after May 1

RECONSIDER: CPSA urges govt to rethink easing travel restrictions; recommends continued testing after May 1

Pinder-Butler says govt must find balance between healthcare and economy

CPSA: Healthcare workers exposed on the frontlines yet “continue to be excluded from meaningful engagement with policymakers”

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — The Consultant Physicians Staff Association (CPSA) is recommending that testing remain a requirement for travel beyond May 1, due to the widespread transmission of COVID-19 cases during the current third wave.

Last week, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis announced eased restrictions for fully vaccinated individuals, including exemption from RT-PCR testing for fully vaccinated travelers into and throughout The Bahamas.

Responding to the policy, CPSA President Dr Sabriquet Pinder-Butler in a statement insisted that testing should still be a requirement past the expected implementation date given that the virus is still contractable even with vaccination.

She further suggested that the government also consider the incorporation of rapid antigen tests in the travel protocol, subsidization of PCR testing or liaising with labs for cost reduction.

“Further support and strengthening of contact-tracing protocols are also a necessity,” she said.

Minister of Health Renward Wells.

Despite concerns regarding the removal of testing restrictions for fully vaccinated individuals traveling into and throughout The Bahamas, health officials have said the matter of transmission after vaccination is still being reviewed by the National COVID-19 Vaccine Consultative Committee.

Yesterday, Health Minister Renward Wells reiterated that stance, noting that “the jury is still out” on research regarding transmissibility after full vaccination.

He noted that the country will continue to monitor the situation and will implement best practices as has been seen in other countries globally, which have vaccinated the majority of their population.

However, Pinder-Butler contended that such a decision could greatly impact The Bahamas.

“We understand the importance of revitalizing our economy, given the financial and social challenges faced by thousands of Bahamians and residents,” she said.

“However, reopening our borders and reducing COVID-19 restrictions without establishing an appropriate balance between the health and the economy of The Bahamas will ultimately result in the sacrifices of not only physicians and other healthcare workers, but also the law-abiding public, to be in vain.”

CPSA President Dr Sabriquet Pinder-Butler.

Pinder-Butler asserted it is precisely because the question of transmissibility after full vaccination remains under review that “continuing the preventative measures and taking precautions while we learn more about this” is important.

She also noted that some vaccines work well against certain COVID strains but are less effective on others, pointing to data from health officials that showed more contagious variants of the coronavirus likely arrived in The Bahamas since last month and have contributed to some extent to the increase in COVID cases.

Recent data also linked the recent increase in cases to international travel.

The CPSA president said her organization continues to support the main preventative measures that have been shown to assist in slowing the spread of the virus, and encouraged anyone wishing to become vaccinated to do so.

“COVID-19 vaccines, although not 100 percent effective, may provide a high degree of protection against getting seriously ill and dying from the disease,” she said.


Exposed and excluded

Pinder-Butler underscored that healthcare institutions and healthcare workers continue to be challenged during this pandemic.

“The recent suspension of some hospital-based services negatively impacted our ability to provide patient care,” she said.

“Physicians continue to have workplace exposures while being on the frontlines with rising COVID-19 cases.

“Yet we continue to be excluded from meaningful engagement with policymakers to discuss strategies to reduce the burden of COVID-19 on us, our healthcare systems and the public at large.”

She added that the association hopes to be more engaged as an integral part of the COVID fight in the country.

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.