Dr. Darville Updates on Omicron Containment Measures

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(BIS Photo/Ulric Woodside)

From: Bahamas Information Services

Minister of Health and Wellness, the Hon. Dr. Michael Darville at a press conference today at the Office of the Prime Minister revealed measures to contain the spread of the Omicron COVID-19 variant presently causing a fourth pandemic surge in the community. The containment measures include hiring of additional medical personnel; sourcing of new COVID-19 drugs; acquisition of Grosvenor Close Nursing Building for an Infectious Diseases ward to regain use of the South Beach Polyclinic for primary care; in partnership with private sector labs, offer of free Rapid Antigen Tests for asymptomatic residents at multiple centres throughout New Providence. There will also be distribution of free medical grade masks at vaccination centres starting this week in New Providence.

Minister Darville said: “As your new minister, I have been working closely with health professionals in my Ministry over the past three months; preparing for the possibility of new waves of the virus and to better address some of the challenges we encountered during the difficult COVID-19 third wave. By way of Health Services Rules we have tightened testing at our borders to reduce the importation of new cases; while refusing to give approvals to mass gatherings throughout the country that can easily become super spreader events as the COVID-19 cases continue to rise.

“One of the most pressing issues we face in healthcare delivery is the shortage of nurses, doctors and support staff. I am pleased to confirm that next week we will bring on board 12 additional doctors. We are also in the final recruitment exercise to add an additional 50 specialty nurses to our healthcare system. They will provide essential services and we pray that contracts will be finalized early next week. Our nurses and doctors have gone beyond the call of duty despite outstanding industrial agreements. I have spoken with the Honorable Prime Minister on these outstanding matters and I assure you, negotiations will begin early next year to finalize these outstanding matters and begin the long awaited promotion exercise across the board, at the Ministry of Health and Wellness.”

He continued that another important component in the fight is the sourcing of new COVID-19 drugs. “We recently signed contracts to acquire these drugs including monoclonal antibodies, which have been proven to be effective for rapid recovery from the virus.”

On the acquisition of Grosvenor Close Nursing Building: “We are all aware of the space challenges we experienced during the most recent third wave of COVID-19. I am happy to report that after negotiations with the University of The Bahamas School of Nursing, my Ministry has temporarily acquired the Grosvenor Close Nursing Building. A contract will be awarded next week to begin the necessary renovations needed to transform that building into a much needed Infectious Diseases Ward to aid in our fight against COVID-19. At its completion we expect to be able to accommodate an additional 100 COVID-19 patients at that location.

“This additional facility will finally allow us to free up the South Beach Polyclinic. Bringing this clinic back into service to provide essential, primary healthcare services for that community.”

With respect to testing, Minister Darville reiterated: “As discussed on numerous occasions, one key element in our fight against COVID-19 is the importance of testing. The sooner people know their status, the sooner appropriate action can be taken to isolate, provide necessary care and prevent exponential spread.

“In partnership with private sector labs, my Ministry will begin offering free Rapid Antigen Tests for asymptomatic residents at multiple centers throughout New Providence. This is part of our ongoing pilot testing program, prior to the launch of the government’s national free testing program. Once the digital platform is completed that would finally marry testing with contact tracing.”

Affirming the pandemic protocols important to containment of virus spread, Minister Darville reminded: “We know that this omicron variant is more than 70 times more infectious than all other variants and when someone laughs, sings, coughs, sneezes or simply breathes, the droplets they expel can spread to others who are in close proximity. We also know that some of the droplets can linger in the air or on surfaces. This is why frequent, proper hand washing, maintaining distances of six feet from others, avoiding crowded places, cleaning and disinfecting regularly and wearing a well fitted mask indoors and outdoors around people, is important.

“As it is recommended, regardless of vaccination status, you can double mask or wear a medical grade mask. Your government will embark upon the distribution of free medical grade masks at vaccination sites starting this week in New Providence.

“We know from the science that persons who have been vaccinated are less likely to be hospitalized or die from COVID-19. Vaccines are safe and effective against the severe effects of the virus.”