NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Minister of Health Renward Wells insisted yesterday that the government has managed to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
Wells’ comments came in response to concerns that 41 percent of travelers who stayed five days or longer in The Bahamas failed to comply with the government’s travel protocol to undergo a follow-up rapid antigen test.
He told reporters outside Cabinet that the government has not dropped the ball when it comes to the matter, given that the number of new cases in recent weeks remains relatively low.
“The proof of the pudding is in the eat, so we will be looking at the numbers going forward,” Wells said.
“These protocols were in place from November 1. We’re almost two and a half months down the road from Nov. 1 and as we can see, the circumstance in the country is still in hand.”
Follow-up rapid antigen testing was incorporated in The Bahamas’ testing regime when the country reopened for tourism on November 1.
That month, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis announced a penalty of $1,000 or one month in jail for individuals who do not comply with the new policy.
During a press conference last week, health officials advised that approximately 70,000 rapid antigen tests were performed for travel-related purposes.
Of those, 113 people who tested on day five of travel were found to be infected with the virus.
About 26,000 people tested negative on their fifth day of testing.
However, 21,000 who were supposed to have taken the rapid antigen test, did not take it.
Despite this, the health minister insisted that the health protocols in place are working to the extent that the government would like to see them work.
The health minister noted that the low number of positive antigen tests speaks to the strength of the government’s testing regime.
“I think the health protocols so far are bearing out the way we would like to see it and we are seeing results of it with regard to those persons coming into the country,” he said.
“…At present, from what our numbers are saying, we do have containment of the virus.”
The total number of COVID-19 cases in the country stood at 8,004 as of Monday.
There have been 175 deaths in the country to-date, with 15 under investigation and another 37 non-COVID-19 related deaths.
A new COVID variant has been detected in countries across the world and more recently the United States.
While substantially more contagious, there is no evidence to suggest it is more deadly or that the existing vaccines will be less effective against it.
Wells said while there is currently no way to test for the new strain in the country, samples can be sent to be tested.
Asked whether the government will move to implement testing for the new strain, the health minister noted that if evidence suggests an unusual increase in cases, then the matter will be reviewed.