By Leandra Rolle
Tribune Staff Reporter
THERE could be a further relaxation of restrictions on more Family Islands with no COVID-19 cases, according to consultant to the Office of the Prime Minister Dr Merceline Dahl-Regis.
This comes after Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis relaxed restrictions on southern islands, allowing commercial activity to resume.
Asked if more Family Islands can expect to see similar freedoms soon, Dr Dahl Regis said: “We’ve been monitoring the situation very carefully.”
“When we look at some of the other islands – Andros, Cat Island, Long Island – I think the Prime Minister has asked would we support that and we’ve certainly given it strong consideration.
“And I think in his national address, he would announce which of the other islands the restrictive measure be lifted.”
As it relates to other islands, specifically Grand Bahama and Abaco, Dr Dahl-Regis said officials have received a lot of requests from residents there for commercial activities to resume in preparation for the upcoming hurricane season.
These islands were devastated by Hurricane Dorian in early September and have struggled to return to normalcy since then.
To this, Dr Dahl-Regis said: “We do have the ongoing concerns by residents in the other islands that they need to prepare for hurricanes, particularly the Abacos. We’ve gotten a lot of requests for commercial activity related to the repair or the preparations for hurricanes in Abaco and Grand Bahama of course,” she said.
She said the Ministry of Health has also been receiving requests from Family Island residents wanting to return home from New Providence.
Further information on this, according to the health consultant, will be outlined by the Prime Minister during his national address on Sunday.
Noting the country is continuing to make progress against the COVID-19 threat, Dr Dahl-Regis said officials are hopeful that once the lockdown on Bimini has been lifted, they will have successfully curtailed the spread of the virus on the island.
On Thursday, Dr Minnis announced a two-week lockdown of Bimini after two new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed on the island, bringing the total there to 13.
Some Bimini residents have been calling for drastic measures to prevent the further spread of the virus since the island recorded its first COVID-19 death in March – Kim Johnson-Rolle.
Almost all of the confirmed cases on the island are people who attended the same church she did, Gateways Ministries, which hosted a crowded funeral not long before she died.
Asked yesterday why officials waited so long to implement the lockdown on Bimini: the health consultant said the decision was not made earlier because officials initially thought they could have contained the spread.
She said: “The two-week interval, we thought that we could avoid the lockdown in Bimini if we had containment or we were be able to prevent the spread. That is why two weeks ago, we sent quite a team to Bimini to include those that did surveillance from door to door and those that investigated the home situations for isolations and quarantine.”
“That team also conducted town meetings, distributed health information materials and engaged the services for psychological and mental support. That was two weeks ago, when they came back the team reported that the behaviour of the Biminites would not likely result in mitigation of the spread of COVID as we wished.”
However, after two additional cases were recently recorded on the island, Dr Dahl -Regis said officials “knew that a lockdown was not avoidable".
Despite this, she said, healthcare workers will not stop conducting testing for the virus on the island.
And if more cases were to arise, she said officials will consider extending the lockdown period.
“Testing will continue for symptomatic and those suspect cases,” Dr Dahl-Regis said during Friday’s press conference. “That will not stop in Bimini.”
“We will continue throughout the period. Should someone present with symptomatology’s, we will invite them to call in to the clinic and we hope to mount mobile units to go to the home rather than them coming out of their physical space.”
“The lockdown periods are for 14 days and we’re dealing with averages and the recommended protocols.”
“If we continue to have cases during this period of time, new cases during the 14-day period we will certainly look at consideration that would promote a longer lockdown, but we will have to be sure that they will have enough food and other support services are in place.”
As of Friday, there were no new confirmed cases of COVID-19. Dr Dahl-Regis said 41 patients have recovered from the virus so far, adding that it’s been three weeks since a COVID-19 related death.
“We continue to make progress,” she said.
“As we increasingly relax restrictive measures through the various stages, we continue to advise (the public) to be as physically distant with others as possible, to wash your hands regularly or to use the hand sanitizer.”
“These public health measures are helping us to control the spread of this coronavirus.”