Health Minister Sands Explains Proven Public Health Measures for Controlling Outbreaks

Minister of Health the Hon. Dr. Duane Sands presented an Update on the COVID-19 Response in The Bahamas in the House of Assembly, April 27, 2020. (BIS Photo/Kemuel Stubbs)

Minister of Health the Hon. Dr. Duane Sands explained that case identification, testing and isolation along with aggressive contact tracing and quarantine, as appropriate, are proven public health measures for controlling outbreaks. “In pandemics, such as we are currently experiencing due to COVID, these measures become most important given the potential for uncontrolled spread in populations with no previous exposure and therefore no one having immunity and everyone susceptible to infection,” Dr. Sands stated as he presented an Update on the COVID-19 Response in The Bahamas in the House of Assembly, April 27, 2020. He noted that case confirmation is tied to laboratory testing capacity and significant strides continue to be made in this area.

“Since my last update, we have accepted 1,000 donated RT PCR test kits as well as more than 700 RNA extractor kits and other regents required for testing. “Despite an inventory of at least 4000 RT PCR kits, we remain challenged to expand testing to reach the elusive goal of testing-on-demand because of international supply chain limitations.” Dr. Sands said currently, the nation’s swab inventory stands at 1100 swabs remaining and our lab is currently exploring multiple avenues for enhanced capacity.

“We have ordered and are expecting 3D printed swabs, validation of samples such as sputum instead of nasopharyngeal swabs and locally produced viral transport media. We shall also partner with the private sector to provide PCR testing.” He added that very soon persons wishing to be tested will be able to have them done at approved private labs.  He said the Health Ministry is also closely monitoring the refinement of antibody tests.  “This past weekend, we did a validation study of some 200 such tests.” The Health Minister said, “As you may recall, I advised that we would be expanding our testing protocol to include health care workers and caregivers of vulnerable populations (nursing homes) as well as others who provide healthcare in the homes of elderly and ill or disabled people.

“I must now inform that testing priorities have now shifted due to the requirement to test all health care worker contacts associated with the eight confirmed cases in the Medical/Surgical Ward at Princess Margaret Hospital.” He added, “Additionally, with one of the cases linked to the Sandilands Rehabilitation Centre (SRC) testing of potentially exposed at that institution is also occurring.”

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