Free testing programme to pilot on impacted Family Islands
Protocols on Inagua, North Eleuthera & the Berry Islands under review as COVID-19 cases soar
NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Health officials have launched an urgent assessment into islands in the southern and central Bahamas as COVID-19 cases skyrocket on several Family Islands in recent weeks.
In a statement on the matter yesterday, the Ministry of Health advised that COVID-19 surveillance and enforcement units were sent to Inagua, North Eleuthera and the Berry Islands with the intention to review COVID-19 cases, tighten surveillance protocols and better support those who need to isolate and quarantine.
It noted that for more than a year, widespread testing has been underutilized in the country’s fight against the spread of the virus, and the government intends to move forward with its promise to implement free testing.
“The government is in the process of building a nationwide free testing programme; free testing will begin as a pilot programme in those Family Islands currently most at risk for community spread of the COVID virus,” the ministry said.
“The goal of testing as many residents of these islands as possible is to let individuals know their status so they can act accordingly, and to give health authorities the information they need to create targeted and effective policies.”
The statement further noted that the ministry will also begin distributing medical-grade masks on those islands currently experiencing COVID-19 clusters and that it is in the process of identifying resources to assist with the surveillance and enforcement.
“The steps outlined by the ministry are in accordance with the Davis government’s determination to rely on a cooperative approach rather than a punitive one,” it added.
“We will work in partnership with healthcare professionals, the public and the private sector to reform and improve the country’s response to COVID.”
The Ministry of Health also advised that over the past three weeks, Minister of Health and Wellness Dr Michael Darville and a team have visited several islands and will continue to visit those islands with identified clusters to further assess conditions and meet with local professionals and residents about the way forward.
As of Saturday, health officials had confirmed a total 21,978 cases of COVID-19 in the country since the start of the pandemic, with still 1,196 active.
The number of COVID-19 deaths stood at 626, with another 53 deaths under investigation.
There have been some 1,948 new COVID-19 cases recorded over the past month, since September 16 — the day The Bahamas held its general election.
The majority of Family Islands saw significant increases within that time period.
Those islands included Mayaguana, which went from four cases to 18; Crooked Island, which had 11 cases and increased to 28; Acklins, which had nine cases and increased to 17; Cat Island, which had 86 cases and increased to 95; Long Island, which had 60 cases and increased to 107; and Inagua, which had 25 cases and increased to 50.
Other islands that saw increases in cases over the past month included Andros, which went from 252 cases to 271; Exuma, which had 342 cases and increased to 353; the Berry Islands, which had 102 cases and increased to 108; and Eleuthera, which had 548 cases and increased to 655.
On Saturday, North Andros & the Berry Islands MP Leonardo Lightbourne advised residents that he is aware of an outbreak in the island communities and assured that the matter is being addressed.
Lightbourne noted that a team of health professionals and enforcement officers will be sent to the islands, and urged all residents to follow the safety protocols until the matter is under control.
“I have the most confidence in our medical professionals, who will ensure that public health protocols — inclusive of contact tracing, isolation and quarantine of individuals where necessary — to mitigate the spread of this deadly virus are implemented,” he said.