Thank you, Mr. Chairman

The Bahamas wishes to inform that there have been no new cases of coronavirus for the past 10 days in Nassau, 41 days on the island of Grand Bahama, and 35 days on the island of Bimini, and no COVID19 cases on any of the remaining 23 major islands.

Madam Secretary General,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

When the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic on March 13, 2020, it was seven months after Hurricane Dorian, one of the most powerful hurricanes recorded in the Atlantic, which ravaged our second and third most populous islands and economic centers.

Four days after the WHO declaration, The Bahamas recorded its first COVID-19 case.

This has had a widespread impact on our economy, which is overwhelmingly dependent on international tourism.

At least 50 percent of our GDP is derived from tourism, which employs directly and indirectly up to 60 percent of our working population.

My Government approved $4.5 million for the COVID-19 Health Response. The Bahamas sustained$3.4 Billion in damages and economic loss from Dorian.

Madam Secretary-General,

The Bahamas benefitted from the support and guidance from many partners, countries and organizations.

We received tremendous assistance from the World Health Organization and PAHO. 

With each public health emergency we have strengthened our preparedness, mitigation and response. SARS, H1N1, Chikungunya and Ebola taught us invaluable lessons.

However, early in the introduction of

COVID 19, it was appreciated that the preparation for this public health emergency had to be different and had to take on greater complexities.

At the outset of our response, there was the urgent need to identify additional health facilities, and to repurpose health facilities for managing positive cases, while providing a safe environment for staff to work.

Adequate quantities of appropriate equipment and supplies were procured for all frontline groups, including the health sector, other government ministries and agencies, for caregivers in nursing homes and other congregate residential facilities across our extensive archipelago,

       For New Providence, the capitol of The Bahamas this meant:

  • Effecting public-private partnerships;
  • Erecting modular units;
  • Re-engineering and retrofitting one of the primary community health facilities to function as a COVID-19 assessment and short-stay facility;
  • Establishing quarantine and isolation facilities on each island;
  • Establishing a protocol for Securing transport of positive and suspect cases using personal isolation units; and
  • Transport of specimens

Grand Bahama experienced significant destruction from Hurricane Dorian with the resultant decommissioning of the only tertiary care facility on that island.

Many of these infrastructural fixes designed for New Providence had to be duplicated for Grand Bahama, the country’s second city. 

Madam Secretary-General,

Notwithstanding that we are still rebuilding after Hurricane Dorian, our response to COVID-19 has been quick, strategic and informed. 

We have had a total of 11 deaths, a limited number of hospitalizations, and adequate ICU beds over the course of 99 days. 

The Bahamas fully activated its Health Emergency Operating Centre on 16th March 2020.

We solidified relationships; established evidenced-based protocols for case management; and strengthened our mechanisms for case identification and contact tracing, among other measures.

We faced challenges with the supply chain of swabs chemical reagents needed of testing, and PPE’s. 

We continuously revised protocols and adjusted guidelines to fit our resources notwithstanding that the limited appropriate supplies decreased our ability to scale-up community testing.

Even in the face of these challenges, real-time PCR testing was enhanced in the accredited National Reference Laboratory.

Our COVID -19 epidemiological profile occurred in clusters.

Madam Secretary-General,

I am reminded of the saying that there is “No losing, only learning.”There is a lot to learn from COVID-19.

As we explore the characteristics of the epidemic within my country we see

  • Our epi-curve demonstrates our turning/bending of the curve. The age profile of the cases and deaths do not necessarily follow global or regional patterns.
  • Disproportionate rates of healthcare workers contract COVID-19;
  • Prolonged course of illness; and
  • The Bahamas continues to carry the distinction of being among the highest burden countries for non-communicable diseases. This reality impacted our COVID-19 experience.]
  • Half (50%) of the cases with one or more comorbidities required hospitalizations compared to 29% of patients with no comorbidities required hospitalizations
  • 71% of the cases (44 cases) with no comorbidities did not require hospitalization while 42.9% of the patients with one or more comorbidities who were hospitalized died, while zero patients hospitalized with no comorbidities died from COVID-19.
  • All COVID-19 related deaths in the Bahamas occurred with patients having one or more comorbidities.

Madam Secretary-General,

The consistent integration of public health and other policy measures such as national curfews and lockdowns have been pivotal in our success.

The Bahamian people are as much to credit as the measures.

Madam Secretary-General,

As we look to the future, cognizant that COVID-19 is not behind us and is still very much a looming threat, we proceed with the relaxation of restrictions with cautious optimism.

Repatriation of Bahamian nationals and legal residents and the phased re-opening of borders carry inherent risks. 

We must exact a balance with the economic welfare of the country and health and well-being of the people.

Simultaneously we must prepare for an imminent hurricane season, and we ask that you, the Commonwealth community do not relax efforts to combat climate change. 

We know that chronic non-communicable diseases continue to threaten us all as does the existential threat of the global climate emergency.

Distinguished Colleagues:

We have much unfinished work. But we know we shall overcome.

It is only through global and regional solidarity that we can effectively address climate change, natural disaster, pandemics, and other public health crises, in order to foster and to promote a more equitable, just, peaceful and environmentally sustainable global commons.

Thank you.