New rules and regulations for more flexibility in COVID-19 management

(BIS Photo/Ulric Woodside)

From: Bahamas Information Services

The Government has moved to bring about new rules and regulations to replace exiting COVID-19 Emergency Orders to allow more flexibility in managing the changing variables of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Minister of Health and Wellness the Hon. Dr. Michael Darville tabled the new measures in the House of Assembly on November 1, 2021, as foreshadowed in the Davis Administration’s ‘Blueprint for Change.’ And, he also tabled an amendment to Section 29 of the Health Services Act, to allow the management of the COVID-19 pandemic to become the responsibility of the Ministry of Health and Wellness.

Dr. Darville told the House that he was humbled and honoured to table two regulatory documents: The Health Services (COVID 19) (Prevention and Management of Community Spread) Rules, 2021, and the Health Services (COVID 19) (General) Rules, 2021. “Our new Prime Minister pledged a science-based, compassionate, common- sense, and respectful approach to managing the pandemic, and we believe the Rules in these documents meet the standard he set for us,” he said.

The Minister also confirmed that, on the 13 November 2021, the current COVID-19 Emergency Orders will fall away, and the Competent Authority will be dismantled.

“We are amending Section 29 of the existing Health Services Act so that the management of the COVID-19 pandemic will now be the responsibility of the Ministry of Health and Wellness,” he said.

“These new Rules will replace the Emergency Orders. They will also allow us the flexibility to make adjustments as the need arises to respond to the changing variables of the pandemic.” Dr. Darville reported that in recent weeks, COVID-19 case counts and the
nation’s positivity rate have been falling, indicating “extraordinary progress.”

“We are pleased to note this improvement took place despite concerns that changing the curfew would cause a spike in cases. Instead, the opposite has happened,” he said. But according to Dr. Darville, the COVID-19 crisis is still very much around; noting that the Delta variant is more than twice as transmissible as the original virus.

“There are new variants that may prove to be more transmissible yet, or more lethal. Anyone who says they know exactly what the virus will do next hasn’t learned from experience. The virus has surprised the world before and it could do so again,” he said.

“Yet we have learned a lot about how to wage a successful battle against the virus, and our hard-earned knowledge is reflected in these new rules.” These Rules also outline the requirements for international travelers entering The Bahamas, and the requirements for domestic inter-island travel, and address testing requirements and specific circumstances that permit exemption from COVID-19 testing.

The second set of rules called The Health Services (COVID19) (General) Rules 2021 speak to the management of COVID-19 in the country, essential COVID-19 protocols, COVID-19 testing supplies, facilities, and the reporting of results. It also outlines the process regarding enforcement of these rules, and the penalties for non-compliance.

Dr. Darville states another important component of these rules is the appointment of an Advisory Committee that will be comprised of experts in epidemiology, supplies management and logistics, health services administration, and public health, among others. “This Advisory Committee will advise and make recommendations regarding the management and control of the pandemic, so that we can continue balancing public health concerns with the need to fast-track our economic recovery,” Dr. Darville said.