The Leader of the Progressive Liberal Party announce an Action Plan to Combat COVID-19 in The Bahamas.
1. Test: Free Testing for All Bahamians.
Every Bahamian has a right to be tested for COVID-19, and the testing should be free. This is the right thing to do, and it is the smart thing to do. A major error made by this government has been to focus on testing only on symptomatic individuals. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that nearly 50% of COVID- 19 transmission occurs before the onset of symptoms.
That means in The Bahamas, by the time we’ve tested someone, and returned their results, they’ve likely already passed the virus to many other Bahamians. In addition, 40% of COVID-19 infections are asymptomatic – that means people have the virus, but don’t know they have it, and don’t know they’re spreading it.
No wonder cases keep growing here. The PLP’s COVID-19 Task Force has repeatedly called for a substantial expansion of testing. As we have said since April, testing is the only way to make an invisible virus visible.
If any Bahamian suspects they may have been exposed to the virus, they should be able to get tested for free and those results should be returned quickly. We should be encouraging and supporting testing, not throwing up obstacles. The ability to keep yourself and your family and co-workers safe should not depend on your ability to pay for a test.
It is a serious hardship for most Bahamians to isolate themselves from family and from their places of work. Most will not do so without a positive test result. Would this be expensive to implement? Yes. But not as expensive as the failure to stop COVID has been. We need a substantial increase in the personnel and resources devoted to testing. Testing centres should be established across our islands with a special focus on emerging hotspots. Rapid antigen testing can be one part of our testing arsenal in order to identify positive cases quickly.
2. Trace: Expand Contact Tracing.
I know people, and I’m sure you do too, who tested positive for COVID-19 and were never asked for a list of the people with whom they had been in contact during the days they were most infectious. I know the contact tracers are working hard. They have our gratitude. But they deserve reinforcements. The government has not hired and trained enough people to keep up. Unless contacts are reached quickly, the exercise is futile. At a minimum, we need 250 contact tracers in Nassau, 50 in Grand Bahama, and 10 each in Bimini, Eleuthera, Abaco and Exuma. All islands with significant hotel properties will need local plans for contact tracing and testing.
People who have been identified as COVID-positive must be isolated from others. Some Bahamians are able to do so in a room within their homes, but for others this is impractical or even impossible. We need to establish a government facility where people can safely stay until
they are no longer shedding the virus. This way we can protect the people they live with and stop community spread.
All clinics on all islands must be equipped with all necessary medical supplies, including oxygen tanks, to support COVID positive patients until they can be evacuated. I hope that the government has made efforts to secure therapeutic medicines for Bahamians, to reduce the severity of COVID and to reduce the course of the illness.
We need to increase resources to hospitals and clinics. Our nurses and doctors have been asking for more support: more PPE, more beds, more staff, more protection for non-COVID patients. They deserve this much at least. It has been nearly impossible to follow the shifting stories and contradictions from government ministers about the use of Breezes to expand capacity. We need more beds. The government needs to work it out. There are doctors and nurses sitting at home instead of reinforcing our front lines. Why is this? We need to get them to work as soon as possible.
6. Educate, Ventilate, Filtrate.
1 (Note the difference between quarantine and isolation. Self-quarantine is done because one might be positive. Isolation is for those who are confirmed positive). Very important information has emerged about how COVID-19 is transmitted but the government has failed to update protocols and educate the public. There is now overwhelming evidence that the inhalation of small virus particles called aerosols is a major transmission route for the coronavirus. This has important implications for determining effective control strategies and for offering guidance to workplaces and individuals.
Viruses transmitted by droplets (distinguished by size) are heavier and typically fall to the ground within about 6 feet of their source; that is the source of the recommendation for physical distancing between people. But viruses in aerosols are smaller and lighter and can remain suspended in air for hours, and then inhaled. Aerosols containing infectious virus can
accumulate in poorly ventilated indoor air and lead to superspreading events.
The government should move quickly to prioritize protecting against airborne transmission this means emphasizing the importance of moving as much activity as possible outdoors, and improving indoor air in schools, homes, workplaces and government buildings using ventilation
and air filtration. This is not a minor thing the government has overlooked. They have failed to explain and act on crucial information about how the virus is transmitted.
7. Build Trust with Transparency and Fairness.
The Bahamian people have lost trust in the government because of their lack of transparency and fairness. This is because of the way that the country has been held hostage to the whims of a single man. Once again, a truly Competent Authority should be appointed, comprised of experts and others, who can make better decisions, and act with greater transparency and fairness.
Here are things the Government Can Do Right Now
- Expand its food programme beyond the month of October.
- Change it testing protocol to ensure both asymptotic and symptomatic COVID contacts are test
- Ensure that every Bahamian that want a test can get a test free of charge that is their right.
- Provide long term care for patients recovering from COVID-19
- Provide PPE’s for Front Line workers including teachers in the public school
- Introduce telemedicine for patients with COVID can contact health professionals in the public sector virtually
- Expand the public sector community testing capacity, including the promotion of organised drive test administer but the public health authorities.
- Hire additional contact tracers for a period of six months and extend if necessary.
- Improve public education on COVID-19 and frequent protocol according to the latest science.
- Hire additional capacity in the public sector to respond effectively to COVID-19.