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Remarks by Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands at COVID-19 Update Press Conference
Mar 24, 2020 - 8:51:30 PM

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Dr. the Hon. Duane Sands Minister of Health

COVID-19 Update Press Conference

The Ministry of Health Tuesday, 24 March, 2020

Today I would like to provide an update on the COVID-19 coronavirus in The Bahamas.

As of Tues day, 24th March, the Ministry of Health has confirmed five cases of COVID-19 in The Bahamas .

The previously announced four cases are in New Providence. The latest case is in Grand Bahama and has no significant travel history. Contact-tracing is aggressively underway.

The first case will be discharged today from hospital .

Health officials continue to follow the condition of the three other COVID-19 - positive cases in New Providence, who remain in isolation at home and do not require hospitalisation at this time. They are in stable condition.

These three cases are contacts of the first case.

The Ministry of Health has contacted the large majority of those who have been in contact with the initial case.

The Ministry of Health Surveillance Unit in New Providence is working closely with Grand Bahama to carry out contact - tracing.

At this time, close to 200 people have been tested in The Bahamas for COVID - 19 following the agreed international protocols .

COVID - 19 remains a serious threat and the Ministry is working hard to mitigate the spread of this coronavirus and to save lives . More than eighteen thousand people have died from the virus worldwide.

As I indicated on Sunday past , The Ministry has expanded its testing capacity. There are 1,750 test kits on New Providence, and the first 300 of 10,000 rapid test kits have arrived .

An additional two thousand five hundred test kits are expected to be in New Providence by mid-week.

To better respond to the public demand for information, at least 30 nurses and physicians have been oriented to man our virtual call centre .

You can call the 24 - hour Hotline at 502 - 7382; 376 - 9350 from 8am to 8pm; 376 - 9387 from 8pm to 8am , and toll free (242) 300 - 2619.

The call centre is reserved for COVID - 19 - related questions. It is not for general medical questions unrelated to COVID - 19.

We ask members of the public to only call with COVID - 19 - related questions. When calling please have your NIB number available.

We also want to emphasize that t his call centre is not for medical emergencies. C all 911 for all medical emergencies.

The Ministry of Health has ensured all working health protocols are in place for clinics and health facilities throughout The Bahamas , inclusive of Grand Bahama and our Family Islands, as it relates to quarantine and isolation facilities , and assessment and treatment guidelines.

In Grand Bahama, we have taken possession of the Cancer Center to help facilitate care of COVID - 19 patients on that island, and modular units have been set up outside of the Rand Memorial Hospital to increase capacity.

Grand Bahama and the Family Islands are currently adequately stocked with medical supplies and PPEs.

Family Island health teams are working closely with island administrators a nd other allied health workers to ensure the health and safety of residents.

The Ministry of Health is in the process of establishing three food and medicine distribution centers in New Providence that will be strategically located in Central, East and South locations on the island.

These centers will operate as pick - up sites only in an effort to enforce physical distancing.

Last night the Prime Minister announced additional restrictive measures through Emergency Powers Regulations to help with physical distancing.

Physical distancing is crucial to halting the spread of this deadly virus.

As a surgeon and Minister of Health I advise you to follow the Regulations and to stay at home and away from others as much as is possible.

Do not invite friends and family over. Do not have parties. Isolate your selves in your homes and on your properties with your family.

How the next few weeks play out depend on how well you follow the public health advice we give, and the Regulations imposed.

If we as a people listen , that would lessen the impact on our country.

If we do not listen , the virus will spread and we will have many deaths.

When this virus spreads widely healthcare systems are overwhelmed. It becomes difficult to assist people who need care .

We are seeing this unfold in real time in the richest and most advanced countries in the world.

We must avoid this in The Bahamas . Again I say, follow the advice we have given and the Regulations in place.

I remind Bahamians of the categories of people at highest risk for this virus . They are:

  • The elderly, those 60 and older with and without chronic diseases;
  • Those with chronic diseases – for example, people with hypertension, diabetes, kidney disease, chronic lung disease, asthma, heart disease, sickle cell disease, cerebral palsy, and the morbidly obese;
  • Those who are immune compromised – such as those with HIV/AIDS, or cancer and those on medicines such as stero ids or chemotherapy;
  • Those who are pregnant.

I repeat the public health advice given :

• Stay home if you feel ill and have fever and/or respiratory symptoms ;

• If you have cold - or flu - like symptoms and think you need to see a physician, call ahead firs t to alert them that you are coming ;

• Frequently wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water ;

• Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing, and then discard it. Or , cover your mouth and nose with your upper sleeve ;

• Refrain from touching your face.

There are various categories of medical response for people who may have been exposed to COVID - 19 through travel or close contact with someone infected with the virus.

They will be required by a health official to limit their contact with others to prevent the spread of COVID - 19. This can be done by quarantine, self - quarantine, mandatory quarantine or isolation.

Quarantine is used to separate and restrict movements of people who are well but may have been exposed to the virus.

Quarantine is usually for a period of 14 days. During this time the person is monitored to see if they experience flu - like symptoms such as fever, cough, sore throat, body aches and become ill.

Self - Quarantine is used to separate people who are well but visited an area where  community infection is present. Self-quarantine can take place at home and usually lasts for 14 days.

If people start to feel sick during the self-quarantine period, they should contact their healthcare provider or the COVID - 19 hotline.

Mandatory quarantine is used to separate people who are well but have had close contact with a COVID - 19 patient. Mandatory quarantine will allow monitoring for the development of symptoms and early detection of a case. Mandatory quarantine take s place at a designated facility. This is usually for a period of 14 days.

Isolation is used to separate ill or infected people who have COVID - 19 to prevent the spread of infection.

For people with mild flu-like symptoms such as low-grade fever, dry cough, fatigue, runny nose, and sore throat they may isolate home.

They should remain in a separate room away from the rest of the household.

If more severe symptoms develop such as shortness of breath or difficulty in breathing, contact your healthcare provider or the COVID hotline.

All Bahamians should join us in thanking the brave and dedicated health workers across The Bahamas who are on the frontline day and night fighting to keep. Bahamians safe.

We value your all your sacrifices and service.

Let us come together as a united Bahamas to win the fight against this virus.

Follow all public health advice given. Follow the regulations that have been made.

Encourage friends and family to do the same.

And I remind you information is critical during this period.

Get your information about the virus from official Government sources and reputable and trusted media.

Do not be misled by fake news.

Thank you.

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