The Honourable Dr. Michael R. Darville, M.P.
Minister of Health & Wellness
AN UPDATE ON COVID-19 IN THE BAHAMAS
HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY
NASSAU, THE BAHAMAS
8TH DECEMBER, 2021
This morning I rise to give an update on the COVID-19 pandemic in The Bahamas.
After having dominated our lives for almost two years, there is no question that Bahamians everywhere are growing weary in the battle against COVID-19 and are looking forward to bigger and better prospects and achievements from this new day government. They can rest assured that we all are working hard and steadily heading in the right direction. However, when we think we are done with the COVID 19 pandemic, new mutated variants pop up proving that the pandemic is not done with us.
With consistent and unpredictable outbreaks of new variants occurring throughout the world, it is still difficult for any of the experts to predict when this deadly pandemic will end. And so for the foreseeable future we anticipate that there will be a regular flow of travel related COVID 19 clusters of infection and the resulting increases in community spread. It is therefore very important that each of us do our part in stopping the spread of the virus by strictly following all health protocols. As we ramp up our vaccination efforts we remain hopeful that we will reach our projected target of 200,000 vaccinated Bahamians and residents. The increased vaccination of our citizens and residents will certainly reduce the severity of the impact of the virus and make it easier for us to keep our economy open and enable us to continue our lives with some degree of normalcy.
As of yesterday, 7th December, 2021, there were 13 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the country. This brings the total number of confirmed cases in The Bahamas to 22,859. Currently, there are 14 COVID-19 patients in the hospital in New Providence and unfortunately 2 persons remain in intensive care in Nassau. I am happy to report that there were no cases of COVID 19 hospitilisations in Grand Bahama. These numbers are among the lowest that we have seen all year. Another encouraging sign is that the test positivity rate has been trending below the 5% benchmark set by the World Health Organization.
But Madam Speaker,
What remains a great concern for all of us in the forefront is the total number of deaths now pegged at 705 with an additional 36 deaths under investigation.
With a total of 322 active cases recorded across the country the pandemic continues to impact our healthcare system. The new Omicron variant labelled by the World Health Organization as being more transmissible that the Delta variant has already spread to some 40 countries around the world and is moving closer and closer to our shores. Given the pervasiveness of the Omicron variant, and its purported milder nature, The Bahamas will remove associated travel restrictions imposed on African countries last weekend.
Having said that, we cannot afford to let our guard down and active discussions with our partners from the Ministry of Tourism, Investments and Aviation is ongoing about meaningful ways to strengthen travel requirements for entry into our country.
Later today my Ministry will meet with technical advisors to finalize the new testing protocols aimed at mitigating the importation of SARS Cov-2 into the country.
In the anticipation of a fourth wave my ministry is continuing our efforts to strengthen our physical capacity to manage patients through the recruitment of additional healthcare workers and the introduction of medicines to prevent persons from requiring hospitalization. We also plan to increase the number of contact tracers and continue our free testing pilot programs in communities with outbreaks while software solutions are tested prior to the rollout of free COVID19 testing across the country.
Again I take this opportunity to encourage all citizens who have not done so to get vaccinated. There is strong scientific evidence that vaccination protects us from severe disease and possible death if infected with the virus. Further, proper wearing of masks, staying socially distanced and sanitizing your hands are critical to preventing infection from COVID 19. We also encourage citizens to pay attention to ventilation at home and in the workplace as flowing air can push out COVID-19 droplets from our environment more quickly.
It is also important to adhere to the Health Services Rules 2021. Be reminded that if persons or organizations desire to host events, outside of the guidelines of these Rules, they must first be reviewed by the Ministry of Health and Wellness, to ensure that all COVID-19 protocols are appropriately reflected in their plans.
Last week, there were 3,300 vaccine doses administered at the vaccination centres. These numbers reflect a slowing trend of persons seeking to be vaccinated for the first time. Madam Speaker, we are happy to advise that beginning today Pfizer and Johnson and Johnson COVID 19 vaccines will be offered as booster doses. The booster dose will be administered to those who received Pfizer or AstraZeneca, 6 months after the 2nd dose, and Johnson and Johnson 2 months after the initial dose.
The first phase of the booster shot rollout will be for persons 60 years and older, who are fully vaccinated, and the second phase will include healthcare providers, front line workers and uniform branch personnel followed by all eligible citizens and residents over the age of 18 years. This is great news and we encourage Bahamians everywhere to capitalize on this vaccine opportunity.
I conclude by encouraging all Bahamians to consult reliable sources such as the websites of the Ministry of Health and Wellness, the Office of the Prime Minister and the respective Facebook pages for accurate information about the vaccines and to be relaibly informed about what we are doing to manage the COVID 19 virus in our country.
Accurate information is also found in our Health Services (COVID-19) (Prevention and Management of Community Spread) Rules, 2021. Remember, we are in this fight together and together we stand divided we fall.