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Coronavirus status Bahamas: Restricting all travel from China to The Bahamas

Press Statement on The Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) by Dr. Pearl McMillan Chief Medical Officer

Coronavirus status Bahamas: Restricting all travel from China to The Bahamas

Yesterday the Minister of Health advised the Bahamian people
about the status of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus or 2019-nCoV as it relates to The Bahamas. As of today, 30th January, 2020, there
have been no suspected, reported or confirmed cases of the
2019 Novel Coronavirus in The Bahamas. The Ministry of Health
has been following the guidance of international partners, WHO,
PAHO, CARPHA and CDC ensuring that our borders, health
agencies and all stakeholders are prepared to respond in the
event we are faced with a case. This situation is evolving, and
today, after the second meeting of the International Health
Regulations (2005) Emergency Committee, the World Health
Organization has declared the new corona virus outbreak a
Public Health Emergency of International Concern.
There have been only five previously declared global public
health emergencies: H1N1 (swine flu) in 2009, Polio in 2014, Zika
in 2016 and Ebola in 2014 and 2016.

CURRENT STATUS UPDATE


The data reported on the Novel Coronavirus as of today, using
The Johns Hopkins School of Public Heath Chinese Coronavirus
Dashboard, in real time, is 8,235 confirmed cases of the Novel
Coronavirus of which 8,124 are on mainland China. Currently,
there are 171 deaths.


PREPARATION IN THE BAHAMAS

Building on the foundations of our preparedness efforts for
SARS, H1N1 and even Ebola, the Ministry of Health is able to
promptly jump into action to prepare for 2019 n-CoV and has
been meeting and planning our response from early last week.
The leaders and technical staff of the Ministry of Health have
met, were briefed and tasked with responsibilities to ensure that
necessary measures are in place to monitor, detect and contain
the spread of this virus if it reaches our shores.

We are also working closely with all government departments,
non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and other stakeholders
to ensure we have a coordinated and effective response. The
Ministry has hosted a series of 2019 novel coronavirus (nCoV)
sensitization meetings with our internal and external
stakeholders and have met with representatives from Tourism,
Nassau Airport Development Company (NAD), Civil Aviation,
Border Control, Customs, Immigration and the Royal Bahamas
Police Force. We have on going briefings with the Prime
Minister.

This morning the Attorney General and the Minister of State for
Financial Services, Trade and Industry and Immigration;
Permanent Secretaries of the Office of the Prime Minister,
Tourism and Aviation, Transport and Local Government; the
Director Generals of Tourism and Foreign Affairs; the
Comptroller of Customs, along with other Senior officials from
the Royal Bahamas Police Force, the Royal Bahamas Defense
Force, and Immigration met with the Minister and Permanent Secretary of Health and other health officers met to discuss the
the 2019 Coronavirus (2019 nCoV). An initial draft of our
preparedness and response plan was also distributed. Based on
interventions during the meeting, we will be revising the Plan
and finalizing with wider distribution tomorrow.

The Ministry of Health is also in constant contact with our WHO
and Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) partners to
receive ongoing notifications about the virus, its impact and to
receive technical assistance to fine tune our response efforts.
We were fortunate to have the PAHO/WHO representative for
The Bahamas at our meeting as well a teleconference with the
Director of the Pan American Health Organization during our
meeting. The Ministry is also liaising and collaborating with
members of the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) for
regional preparedness, testing and laboratory
recommendations. Consultation with the Center for Disease
Control (CDC) is also ongoing.


TRAVEL AND TRADE


Following the Level 3 travel advisory issued by the United States
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) concerning the
recent Coronavirus outbreak in China, along with travel
restrictions in France, the United Kingdom, Australia, Jamaica
and other sovereign nations, the Government of The Bahamas
has implemented a travel ban, restricting all travel from China to
The Bahamas. Effective immediately, any non-resident
regardless of nationality who has visited China in the last 20 days
will be denied entry into the country. All residents returning to
The Bahamas will be strictly quarantined and monitored for
development of symptoms for the duration of the incubation
period with a maximum of 14 days.

The WHO’s current recommendation is against non-essential
travel for persons to China at this time. The Ministry of Health,
therefore, recommends that persons who MUST travel in that
region, take precautions to protect themselves by avoiding
direct contact with sick people and products that come from animals. Be diligent, pay attention and equip yourself with travel
advisory information related to the 2019 Novel Coronavirus
before you travel. If during, or after your travel, symptoms of
respiratory illness are experienced, you are encouraged to
immediately contact a medical provider who will guide you as to
your next steps. Be ready to give your full travel history to health
care providers. As mentioned, all persons returning to The
Bahamas from China will be quarantined.

As the information pertaining to this coronavirus is constantly
being updated, the Ministry of Health is ensuring that the public
remains informed via traditional and social media. The aim is to
provide families and all citizens of The Bahamas with the
necessary information to protect their well-being. Please ensure
that you are receiving your information from credible and
reliable sources.

Ongoing surveillance of our borders is critical. Monitoring at all
our ports in New Providence and the Family Islands has been enhanced via multiagency collaborations. Lynden Pindling
International Airport (LPIA) and other major ports of entry are
linked to our National Communicable Disease Surveillance Unit
via a twenty four hour port surveillance officer contact. The
Ministry of Health has confirmed that we have ample quantities
of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for the front line staff,
and the capacity for laboratory testing is in place.

I would like to reiterate that currently, there have been no
suspected, reported or confirmed cases of the 2019 Novel
Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) in The Bahamas.

Common signs of infection with this virus involve respiratory
symptoms including –

• fever;

• cough;

• shortness of breath; and

• breathing difficulties.


In more severe cases, infection can cause:

• pneumonia;

• severe respiratory distress;

• kidney failure; and

• even death.


Standard recommendations to prevent the spread of this
infection include:

• frequent, proper hand washing and use of hand sanitizer;

• covering the mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing
preferably with the elbow and sleeve;

• thoroughly cooking meat and eggs; and

• avoiding close contact with anyone showing symptoms of
respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing.

TREATMENT


Currently, a vaccine has not yet been developed for prevention
of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus. Therefore, treatment is focused
on symptoms.

THE WAY FORWARD


Ongoing staff briefings across all stakeholder agencies with
regular updates to ensure swift identification, diagnosis and
management of a suspected case is assured. Additional
meetings with other health and stakeholder agencies are
planned.

Tomorrow, the Ministry of Health will be meeting with the US
border control, airline operators, Nassau Flight Services and
Bahamas Immigration and Customs.

In the coming days it is expected that the officials from the
Ministry of Health will be meeting with fixed based aviation
operations such as Odyssey, Executive Flight Support Services
(Jet Aviation) and Phoenix Aviation.

It is also the intention of the Ministry to meet with Family Island
Administrators, customs and immigration officers, doctors and
nurses on the islands of Grand Bahama, San Salvador, Exuma and
Andros via videoconferencing. These meetings are part of the
ongoing effort to update personnel on the frontline and citizens
on the Family Islands about the Novel Coronavirus.

Please be assured that the Ministry of Health is ready to ensure
the health protection of all residents and visitors to The
Bahamas. Our aim is to be prepared for whatever potential
health emergencies that come to our shores and to limit the
effect on our population.

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