COVID-19 testing lab in New Providence

Lab with capacity to test for COVID-19 established in New Providence

A laboratory with the capacity to test for the COVID-19 virus has been established at the National Reference Laboratory in New Providence, said Chief Medical Officer Dr. Pearl McMillian.

The lab was set-up last week and is part of the Ministry of Health’s ongoing COVID-19 preparedness and response plan to ensure optimal readiness and response to the virus.

To date, there are no reported, suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19 in The Bahamas.
Dr. McMillian highlighted some of the plans already put in place by the Ministry of Health during a live national press briefing on Sunday 1 March, including.

• The establishment of 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 the defence forces.
• The preparation of hospitals and clinics in accordance with international guidelines for infection prevention and control procedures;
• Training for frontline healthcare staff in the proper use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE);
• Confirmation of ample quantities of PPE for frontline staff;
• Distribution of national plan to relevant stakeholders, including border control officers, hoteliers, public and private health care facilities and others;
• Regular planning and follow-up meetings, and;
• Regular public updates, including press briefings, daily dashboards highlighting essential information on COVID-19, official statements and public service announcements.

Prime Minister the Most Hon. Dr. Hubert Minnis said the Government will utilize the resources necessary to help minimize the risk of COVID-19 in The Bahamas and ensure the safety of all Bahamians and residents.

“I want to be clear that when it comes to public health threats the Government will not take any chances,” the Prime Minister said at the national COVID-19 update at the Office of the Prime Minister. “We take this outbreak very seriously. Public health is an absolute priority.”

Prime Minister Minnis urged the public to rely on certified, credible sources of information to stay up to date and properly informed about COVID-19 in The Bahamas.

“Misinformation, which can spread rapidly, causes distress and panic and has the potential to undermine the public health response,” he said.

A National Coordinating Committee will soon be formed and will include relevant members of civil society, in addition to Government representatives, said Prime Minister Minnis.

On Sunday before the national update, the Prime Minister took part in an emergency meeting with other CARICOM heads of government via video conference. The meeting was attended by PAHO, CARPHA, CDEMA and representatives of the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association and the Cruise Lines International Association.

A regional protocol establishing minimum standards for dealing with the COVID-19 virus was agreed to by CARICOM leaders and ministers of health. Leaders said the protocol is critical to avoid an outbreak of panic and fear in the region.

The meeting agreed to establish an expanded Bureau of Heads of Government to continue discussions with the travel and tourism industry, regional financial institutions, international financial institutions and the private sector with respect to marshalling of resources to augment the region’s capacity to deal with a possible outbreak.

COVID-19 is an infectious disease caused by the Coronavirus.

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. Standard recommendations to prevent the spread of infection include regular hand washing, covering mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing.

Close contact should be avoided with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing.

For more information contact the Ministry of Health at 502-4776, 502-4790 or 502-4737.

3 March 2020
Office of the Prime Minister Commonwealth of The Bahamas