The government is set to establish a National Coordinating Committee that will include relevant members of civil society and government representatives as part of its overall response to the outbreak of COVID-19 virus, the Most Hon. Dr. Hubert Minnis, Prime Minister, announced. He was addressing a Press Conference to update the public on the country’s mitigation and response plans as the contagious virus spreads globally. The press conference was held Sunday, March 1, 2020 at the Office of the Prime Minister. Also in attendance were Dr. Duane Sands, Minister of Health and Dr. Pearl McMillan, Chief Medical Officer, and other government officials. Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a virus identified as the cause of an outbreak of respiratory illness first detected in Wuhan, China. Common signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death. One of the standard measures to prevent the spread of the virus is proper washing of hands.
To date, there are no confirmed, suspected, or recorded cases of COVID-19 in The Bahamas, the Prime Minister confirmed. However, there has been an increase in the number of countries with reported cases of the virus globally, he noted. “I want to be clear that when it comes to public health threats the government will not take any chances. We take this outbreak very seriously,” the Prime Minister said. He added, “We will utilize the necessary resources to ensure the safety of all Bahamians and residents. Public Health is an absolute priority.” The Prime Minister said that as a husband, father and grandfather the outbreak of the COVID-19 is a matter of grave concern. And as a doctor, it is equally concerning. “I have instructed this government and its health officials in particular to do everything in our power to combat, communicate and if needed contain this health risk,” he said.
The Ministry of Health has developed a national preparedness and response plan to ensure optimal readiness and response to COVID-19 and has been providing regular public updates through various avenues. The Ministry has also established a Task Force made up of key personnel from various government agencies including Customs and Immigration, the Port Department, Tourism, Foreign Affairs, and the Police and Defence forces. “We will shortly announce the establishment of a National Coordinating Committee that will also include relevant members of civil society, in addition to government representatives. The government is also in consultation with other international and regional bodies such as PAHO and the Caribbean Community, (CARICOM) as a means of coordinating and sharing information. “We will remain vigilant and proactive,” the Prime Minister said.