Bahamas Government Worried at COVID-19 Cluster Cases on Family Islands

bahamas darville
Dr. Michael Darville speaking to reporters

The Bahamas government has expressed concern at “some clusters” of the coronavirus (COVID-19) on Family Islands even as former prime minister Dr Hubert Minnis says an increase in COVID-19 deaths and cases had nothing to do with the general election last month.

The Ministry of Health recorded 133 cases on the Family Islands between October 2-15. Overall, the Bahamas has recorded 626 deaths and 22,048 positive cases linked to the virus after the first case was reported in March last year.

Health and Wellness Minister Dr Michael Darville, said free COVID-19 testing will be piloted on Family Islands on Wednesday telling reporters that there are some clusters on some Family Islands that are a great concern.

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Darville said that while ‘we cannot give an exact cost” for the free testing initiative, officials are minimizing the expense.

“We anticipate that our launch will start effectively …Wednesday in Inagua,” he said, adding “this is our plan to be in Great Inagua and set up testing areas in two different sites and to make sure that we have the necessary social distancing and from there they will be on Inagua for Thursday and will be departing on Friday.

“Likewise, we will definitely be announcing when we’re going to do it in North Eleuthera; when we’re going to do it on the Berry Islands; when we’re going to do it in South Eleuthera.”

The Health Minister said that the whole purpose of the exercise is to determine “what’s going on on these islands.

“Our COVID cases are still contained in the cluster (or) are we beginning to see sub-clusters or signs of community spreads and based on what we find the necessary security measures will be implemented, but I’d like to say the days of lockdowns are pretty much behind us.

“Every country has to manage COVID and we need to improve the way we are managing COVID here with new techniques and new things coming out of our toolbox.”

The Ministry of Health previously said it was dispatching COVID-19 surveillance and enforcement units 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.

“One of the things that our surveillance unit has reported back is that there is a possibility or the fact that our clusters may have lost its integrity with individuals who are in quarantine breaking quarantine,” Darville said.

He said tighter restrictions are absolutely necessary “because we will have clusters of COVID infection from time to time throughout our country and it’s better that we have a protective measure in place and so I did send additional police officers into Iguana, into North Eleuthera, and the Berry Islands to ensure that our ability to monitor and to protect the clusters so we don’t have sub-clusters and the possibility of community spread”.

Meanwhile, Minnis says the increase in COVID-19 deaths and cases on some Family Islands has nothing to do with the early general election held last month, noting that the outbreaks have come too far after the election to be attributed to the event.

“The infection occurs five to six days after exposure, so this is not related to any activities by the FNM,” he added.

Bahamians went to the polls on September 16 with political parties not strictly adhering to the health protocols at rallies and political events.

“Throughout the entire COVID, we have utilized the science. We’ve followed the science and when there were changes because COVID was very fluid, we would make the necessary changes.

“When individuals are saying that the flare-up or the infections you are seeing in the Family Islands are a result of the election on the 16th when you look at the science and individuals being exposed, infections do not manifest themselves for at least five to six days,” said Minnis, a medical practitioner.

“So let’s assume all the rallies were on September 16. If every rally was on the 16th and they were exposed at the events then according to science the infection would manifest itself by the 22nd or 23rd, not this late.

“What I would suggest is they need to send down a medical team, a contact tracing team and a vaccination team to these islands and vaccinate as aggressively as possible. Once they use the contact tracing team they would be able to tell exactly where the infection comes from, which bars, which homes, etc. I would hope they would release such information.

“We were able to say where clusters started at press conferences. The travel visa provided a lot of information with respect to contact tracing, but they have dismantled it and thrown away a great weapon in terms of contact tracing,” he added.