As a husband, father and grandfather, the outbreak of COVID-19 is a matter of grave concern.
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.
COVID-19 is an infectious disease caused by the Coronavirus.
Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV).
A novel coronavirus (nCoV) is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans.
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.
A pneumonia of unknown cause detected in Wuhan, China, was first reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) Country Office in China on 31 December 2019.
The outbreak was declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on 30 January 2020.
On 11 February 2020, WHO announced a name for the new coronavirus disease: COVID-19.
To date, there are no confirmed, suspected, or recorded cases of COVID-19 in The Bahamas. However, there has been an increase in the number of countries with reported cases of the virus globally.
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.
We will utilize the resources necessary to ensure the safety of all Bahamians and residents. Public health is an absolute priority.
I have been monitoring this on a daily basis and getting regular updates from health officials.
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 via press briefing, official statements, daily dashboards capturing essential information related to COVID-19 and public service announcements.
I would like to urge 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.
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 the 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.
Earlier today, I took part in an emergency meeting with other Caricom heads of government via video conference.
We had productive discussions on the development of a regional coordination for the management of COVID-19, including strengthening existing protocols for seaports, and aligning best practices in the region.
Caribbean leaders are also seeking to find a balance to its overall response to COVID-19.
Leaders also considered whether a regional rapid response team should be reestablished to provide assistance across the region to countries that are in need.
Coordination and information-sharing with regional partners are essential.
We have been working in tandem with the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) since Covid-19 was identified.
We will remain vigilant and proactive.
The Chief Medical Officer will be the official spokesperson from the Ministry of Health.
I now invite the CMO to provide the latest information on COVID-19 in The Bahamas.