Chief Medical Officer (CMO) in the Ministry of Health, Dr. Pearl McMillan said that up to the time of the Ministry’s press conference, January 30, 2020, there had been no suspected, reported or confirmed cases of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus in The Bahamas. Dr. McMillan said, “The Min. of Health has been following the guidance of international partners, the World Health Organization, the Pan American Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ensuring that our borders, health agencies and all stakeholders are prepared to respond in the event we are faced with a case. “This situation is evolving, and today, after the second meeting of the International Health Regulations (2005) Emergency Committee, the WHO has declared the new corona virus outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.”
The CMO explained that following the level three travel advisory issued by the United States CDC concerning the recent Coronavirus outbreak in China, along with travel restrictions in France, the United Kingdom, Australia, Jamaica and other sovereign nations, the Government of The Bahamas has implemented a travel ban, restricting all travel from China to The Bahamas. “Effectively immediately, any non-resident regardless of nationality who has visited China in the last 20 days will be denied entry into the country.
“All residents returning to The Bahamas will be strictly quarantined and monitored for development of symptoms for the duration of the incubation period with a maximum of 14 days.” Dr. McMillan stated that the WHO’s current recommendation is against all non-essential travel for persons to China at this time. “The Ministry of Health, therefore, recommends that persons who MUST travel in that region, take precautions to protect themselves by avoiding direct contact with sick people and products that come from animals. “Be diligent, pay attention and equip yourself with travel advisory information related to the 2019 Novel Coronavirus before you travel. If during, or after your travel symptoms of respiratory illness are experienced, you are encouraged to immediately contact a medical provider who will guide you as to your next steps.
She added, “Be ready to give your full travel history to health care providers. As mentioned, all persons returning to The Bahamas from China will be quarantined.” Common signs of infection with this virus involve respiratory symptoms including fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe respiratory distress, kidney failure and even death. Standard recommendations to prevent the spread of this infection include frequent, proper hand washing and use of hand sanitizer; covering the mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing preferably with the elbow and sleeve; thoroughly cooking meat and eggs and avoiding close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing.
The CMO noted that the Ministry of Health is working closely with all government departments, non-governmental organizations and other stakeholders to ensure that there is a coordinated and effective response. “The Ministry has hosted a series of 2019 Novel Coronavirus sensitization meetings with our internal and external stakeholders and have met with representatives from Tourism, Nassau Airport Development Company, Civil Aviation, Border Control, Customs, Immigration and the Royal Bahamas Police Force. We have ongoing briefings with the Prime Minister.” PAHO Representative to The Bahamas, Dr. Esther de Gourville explained that as yet there is no treatment to cure the novel coronavirus infections and there is no vaccine to prevent infections. She said infected persons are being given supportive treatment to deal with their symptoms and it is should be noted that this is a very dynamic situation and the number of reported cases around the world is changing daily.