Minister of Health Gave Update on the Fight Against COVID-19; Virtual Call Centre Established

(BIS Photos/Kristaan Ingraham)

Min. of Health the Hon. Dr. Duane Sands explained that as of Sunday, 22nd March 2020 the Ministry of Health confirmed four cases of COVID-19 in The Bahamas. The cases are in New Providence.  During a press conference at the Ministry, he added that seven people are in a quarantine facility and 35 people have been released from quarantine. He said the first case remains in hospital in stable condition and is being managed in isolation — a 61-year-old female resident of New Providence who does not have relevant travel history. The Health Minister noted that health officials continue to follow the condition of the three other COVID-19 positive cases who remain in isolation at home and do not require hospitalization at this time; contact tracing is still being conducted.

Dr. Sands said as COVID-19 is a serious threat, the Ministry of Health has activated its Emergency Operation Centre to mitigate the spread of this coronavirus and to save lives. “The Ministry has expanded its testing capacity. There are 1,750 test kits on New Providence, and 10,000 rapid test kits have been ordered. “Two thousand five hundred test kits are expected to be in New Providence by mid-week. “Our partner the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) is helping to build lab capacity and continues to assist in sourcing additional test kits.” He explained that COVID-19 testing is conducted at the Ministry of Health’s National Reference Laboratory, which is internationally accredited by the College of American Pathologists.  Dr. Sands stressed that it is the only laboratory in The Bahamas certified to perform COVID-19 testing.

He said the Doctors Hospital facility on Blake Road, which will be used to treat ill COVID-19-positive patients, would come on stream Monday (March 23). The Health Minister added that to better respond to the public demand for information, at least 30 nurses and physicians have been oriented to man a virtual call centre. The Public can call the 24-hour Hotline at 502-7382; 376-9350 from 8am to 8pm; 376-9387 from 8pm to 8am, and toll free (242) 300-2619.  Additional numbers will come online in the coming days. Dr. Sands stated that this virtual approach aligns with appeals for social distancing and ensures the workforce, particularly the health workforce, remains healthy and available to respond to the needs of the community.

“The call centre is reserved for COVID-19-related questions. It is not for general medical questions unrelated to COVID-19. We ask members of the public to only call with COVID-19-related questions.  When calling please have your NIB number available. “We also want to emphasize that this call centre is not for medical emergencies. Call 911 for all medical emergencies.” Dr. Sands said on the readiness of the Family Islands, the Ministry has ensured that all working health protocols are in place for clinics and health facilities throughout The Bahamas as it relates to quarantine and isolation facilities, and assessment and treatment guidelines.

He said, “Family Island health teams are working closely with island administrators and other allied health workers, including immigration and customs officers, to ensure the health and safety of residents.” Dr. Merceline Dahl-Regis was announced as the Health Consultant to the Prime Minister and will support the efforts that the Government is making to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and to prevent any adverse outcomes including deaths.

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