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pandemic

Saturday, January 22, 2022

pandemic

Davis Surrenders to Omicron as Cases Explode. His Speech Falls Short of a Plan to Contain It and Treat Bahamians

As COVID-19 cases rise to threatening levels, Prime Minister Philip Davis acknowledged that the country is entering a new phase in the pandemic.

Health officials reported 818 new cases on Friday and 291 new cases on Saturday.

With COVID-19 cases spreading like wildfire, Bahamians expected much from Davis’ speech on Sunday but many were left disappointed as he announced nothing new. He reiterated his government’s plan to implement widespread testing using the Rapid Antigen Tests and issue medical-grade masks to the public, which was a promise made on the campaign trail.

He seemed to have surrendered to the virus, telling Bahamians that “all of us will be affected…We will see high counts.”

He asked, “How ready will your body be to fight off the virus?”

Davis said a vast majority of Bahamians will become infected by the virus as the Delta and Omicron strains roam.

While a large portion of the Bahamian population remains unvaccinated, Davis warned that they will be ‘hit hardest’ in the new phase of the infectious virus.

Experts have described Omicron as more transmissible than Delta but less severe.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, head of the World Health Organisation warned that “while the new strain appears to be less severe when compared to Delta, in people vaccinated, it should be not be categorized as ‘mild.’

“Just like previous variants, Omicron is hospitalizing people and it is killing people,” Ghebreyesus stressed.

Davis said Bahamians should double masks until his government can issue the medical-grade masks, and limit time spent indoors.

“We’re in the hardest days of it.

“We can weather the storm together,” Davis summed up.

4th Wave of COVID-19 Keeps Students Out of the Classroom

As COVID-19 rage across the globe and health officials worry that Omicron could be in the country, the Ministry of Health announced that the reopening of private and public schools will be delayed another two weeks after the Christmas break.

Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday, Health and Wellness Minister Michael Darville said though schools were expected to reopen fully on January 11, officials deferred the face-to-face learning.

“In our view, it is not a good thing to reopen schools in the middle of a pandemic. We will wait and act with a degree of caution. When we open, we will open to stay open,” he said.

Big story

The reopening of schools sparked a public debate during the pandemic.  Schools in the country have been shut to face-to-face learning for nearly two years as the country battled the pandemic.

The Ministry of Health implemented a hybrid learning format to accommodate students’ learning. However, some students were being left behind and not logging onto the virtual platform.

Why it matters

The country is in the fourth wave of the pandemic, battling a spur of daily, new cases. Officials believe the Omicron virus is the country though not confirmed. They are awaiting lab results from Panama.

They have ruled New Providence as the epicenter of the virus and the crux of the sharp increase in cases is in the capital.

Christmas day, a record, breaking number of 330 cases were reported, which was a combination of cases over a few days.  85 cases were recorded on December 26; 159 cases on December 27; 65 cases on December 28;

What Minister of Education Glenny’s Hanna Martin says

Newly-appointed Minister of Education Glennys Hanna-Martin said her ministry accelerated works to quickly reopen schools, but the pandemic halted its plans.

She said the ministry will act on the advice of health officials.

“We will monitor it, come back to the table, assess where we are. That’s where we are at this moment.”

State of Play

All schools including preschools and daycares will continue virtual learning after the Christmas break.

 

 

 

 

 

Omicron: 5 Things to Know About the New Variant

The world is in a scare as a new strain of the coronavirus has emerged. Experts have named it the omicron.

1. What is it?

The Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 is the latest strain of the virus. Many countries are now reporting cases of this strain. Experts said this strain has unusual mutations which could mean it can spread faster.

It was first reported in South Africa and recent cases are linked to that country. However, experts said it was already in the Netherlands one week before South Africa reported its first case.

It was named after the 15th letter in the Greek alphabet.

2. Where is it?

Twenty-four countries have reported cases of the omicron virus.

On Monday, 33 cases were confirmed in Europe: Netherlands, Austria, Germany, Czechia, Belgium, Denmark, Italy and Portugal.

It was also found in USA, Canada, Hong Kong, Israel and South Africa. Other African nations include: Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Tanzania and Zimbabwe.

3. Is it dangerous?

Though there is alarm over the new variant, and countries have banned air travel to some countries, scientists are still unclear whether omicron is more transmissible than the delta variant and other versions of the virus.

It is reported to have “unusually high” number of mutations that causes COVID-19 to have more of the key spike proteins it uses to get into the healthy cells it attacks.

4. Will the vaccines work against it?

Health experts are analyzing whether or not the vaccines available will be effective against the new strain.

US research is being done to see if it evades immunity from the available vaccinations.

The Pfizer company said it would develop and produce a “tailor-made vaccine” to fight omicron in about 100 days.

Moderna said it was testing boosters to see if they could be used against the omicron variant.

5. Will governments implement new lockdowns and restrictive measures to prevent spread of omicron?

Countries have not implemented lockdowns because of lockdowns.

As of right now, Biden said he would not lobby for restrictions but urged everyone to wear masks.

Omicron has not been reported in the Bahamas or the Caribbean as yet. It remains to be seen if it will cause a lockdown under a new government in the country.

‘Don’t Get Cute!’ ‘No, I Don’t Want To Be Cute!’ Pintard’s 5 Day PCR Test Question Triggers House Floor Wrangle

A question asked by Marco City MP Michael Pintard regarding the perceived unequal application of the five-day PCR testing requirement sparked a morning row with Health Minister Michael Darville in the House of Assembly on Wednesday.

Pintard sought clarification of a clause before the passage of the COVID-19 Pandemic Special Provisions Bill 2021.

“I know the Progressive Liberal Party has prided itself on putting Bahamians first and so I find it a bit odd unless I mis-read it, that you were prepared to accept from the United States…a five-day old Covid test. Americans can take it five days before travelling and we are willing to accept it…” he said.

“It seems as if there is unequal treatment of Bahamians with Americans. If you can help me understand, why is there that disconnect?”

Darville took exception to Pintard’s question and responded, “Read it and come back.”

Pintard, taken aback by Darville, asks, “Am I incorrect or not?”

“You’re incorrect,” Darville blurted out on his feet.

“So help me understand,” Pintard retorted.

“Read it and call me,” Darville said, spurring laughter from other parliamentarians

“It’s that kind of arrogance that has some other people in jeopardy,” Pintard replied on his feet, as House Speaker Patricia Deveaux interrupted to restore order in the House.

“Honorable member for Marco City, let me remind you that one person on his feet at a time please,” she said.

Pintard said, “Yes, except the one on his feet is insulting me, Madam Speaker. I intend to stand up. Don’t tell me read the bill. I’m referencing the section because I read the section. Only that section I’m raising with you…Don’t get cute.”

“No, I don’t want to be cute,” Darville said. But I don’t want you to be disrespectful as well.”

Darville could not find the documents to explain to Pintard at the moment, giving the floor back to Pintard and stating he will address the matter later in his speech.

Mischief Makers Lose Seats in Parliament

Following the defeat of the Free National Movement at the polls, winners have emerged but none include the infamous parliamentarians who have openly defied the former government and its policies.

Former FNM members who became independent parliamentarians Reece Chipman and Halson Moultrie, and outspoken FNM MP Frederick McAlpine who was for years at odds with the party, all lost their seats in unofficial results.

Reece Chipman

Chipman has constantly criticized the government and has never supported its agenda. However, he still suffered politically.

Chipman was a newcomer to politics in 2017, running on the FNM ticket during the general elections, subsequently ousting former Prime Minister Perry Christie and winning a PLP stronghold.

Chipman voted against the VAT increase and the resolution to lease the Town Centre Mall from former Cabinet minister Brent Symonette.  He eventually resigned from the party in 2019 citing the government’s handling of Hurricane Dorian and partisan politics.

PLP Jomo Campbell replaces Chipman in Centerville.

Halson Moultrie

Moultrie received little votes in Nassau Village as constituents went with PLP Jamahl Strachan, instead.

Moultrie was an antagonistic voice in Parliament where he served as Speaker.  He resigned from the FNM in February of this year, but refused to resign as the Speaker of the House of Assembly.

Moultrie was a thorn in the side of the FNM government calling for autonomy of the House and upping his ante during the pandemic when he contrived an idea to hold an ‘open parliament’ after Parliament went on recess.

The Nassau Village MP gained the support of third parties like the Democratic National Alliance and the Coalition of Independents who joined him in his protest against the Minnis-led government and its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. But he did little to gain the support of his constituents.

Frederick McAlpine

McAlpine may have thought he was going to win Pineridge, but constituents replaced him with PLP Ginger Moxey.

He has been the most outspoken member of the FNM government, often hitting out at Minnis during his presentations in the House.

He ran as an independent candidate for the Pineridge constituency in this election after he did not receive the FNM nomination. Many still expected him to win his seat in Pineridge because of the loud support he garnered in spite of his opposition against his party members.

He has had a long and rather cold relationship with the FNM and said that members in his party wanted him gone while complaining that the party leader ignored him.

In a surprising move, Pineridge went with Moxey, despite McAlpine’s touts of his accomplishments in the area.

 

‘Growing Pains’ at the Advance Polls

As voters cast their ballots at the advance polls on Thursday, many news agencies have characterized the process as ‘not smooth.’

   

Voters turned out in large numbers at polling stations, standing in long lines and complaining of the wait time.

Sporadic crowds were seen at some stations as the COVID-19 Task Force sought to ensure order to prevent the further spread of the virus.

Former PM Hubert Ingraham said he nor his wife’s name was on the list for the advance poll.

Former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham left the polling station frustrated after he complained that his name was not listed at either of the two polling divisions he attended.

He later returned and was allowed to vote after an apology by Parliamentary Commissioner Lavado Duncanson.

But Minister of National Security Marvin Dames with responsibility for the Parliamentary Registration Department said he is “not surprise” at the complaints and agitation by some voters due to the increased number of voters including the elderly, allowed to vote at the advance polls.

Senior citizens are allowed to vote early to prevent exposure to the virus and long waits on lines on Election Day.

Dames said, “We would have recently had amendments to the Act. In 2017, we had a central area where advance poll voters were allowed to come and vote. That was when we had some 3,000 voters.  This is like a mini election. We have 30,000 voters.

“You’re going to have your growing pains. This is the first time we are doing this. The growing pains are not significant to really impact people’s right to vote. People are being allowed to exercise their right to vote,” Dames said.

He said his team will “continue to forge forward” and debrief to ensure a smoother running on September 16.

Officials Report Staggering Number of Additional COVID-19 Deaths

Health officials have revealed fifteen additional deaths related to COVID-19.

In its August 29 update report, officials confirmed that the deaths occurred between July 16 and August 23.

All of the deaths ranged from 36 to 91 years old.

Twelve of the deaths occurred in Grand Bahama while three occurred in Nassau.

In addition to deaths, officials reported 129 new COVID-19 cases. Out of the 129 cases, 114 were in New Providence; 4 in Abaco; 6 in Eleuthera; 1 in Berry Islands; 3 in Exuma; and 1 in Crooked Island.

Amidst a surge in COVID-19 cases, a General Election is looming. Political groups have taken to streets and parks to garner support for September 16.

The governing party has opted for drive-in rallies to control the spread of the virus, while the opposition party said it will hold out on drive-in rallies and has since taken to television to get its message to the public.

It remains to been seen how the political nuances will play out in the pandemic.

Minnis Hosts First Drive-in Campaign Rally Amid Pandemic Ahead of Election

As the general election loom, the political arena saw its first drive-in rally.

Prime Minister Hubert Minnis addressed hundreds of supporters in Grand Bahama who stayed in or near their vehicles, to prevent the continued spread of COVID-19.

Despite its high cases of infection in the country, the Free National Movement found a new way to reach its supporters.   The party supporters waved pom-poms from their car windows, blew the car horns in support of their candidates, while others danced while social distancing from others.

Minnis touted his vaccination program stating that 11,000 more Bahamians were vaccinated between Monday and Friday.

He hit out at the Leader of the Progressive Liberal Party Philip Davis who has criticized his government’s COVID-19 policies to control the virus.

Minnis praised the “decisive leadership” of his government.

“Some other people played down the pandemic and the vaccine. They talked fool and voted against the Emergency Order. If Brave Davis was leading the country, we would be in much, much worse shape,” Minnis said.

“He and I are distinctly different. I wanted to save lives. He wanted to open the bars.”

Minnis added that he laughed when he saw the PLP’s slogan, ‘A New Day.’

“I bust out laughing when I heard that…He is a PLP from the dark days of the ’80s…Brave is no new day. Brave is yesterday’s news. He would take us back to the dark days.”

Last week, Davis said his party will postpone drive-in rallies to help battle the spread of the infectious disease.

The big story

Bahamians will head to the polls on September 16 in an early election called by Minnis. It comes at a time when the country is battling high deaths and hospitalizations due to COVID-19.

The government has launched its vaccination campaign to combat the further spread of the virus. Three vaccines are now available–AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson.

 

 

First J&J Vaccines Arrive in Country

38,400 doses of the Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccine arrived in the country on Thursday morning.

It is one of three vaccines secured by the government to inoculate the population against COVID-19.

To date, the government has secured over 550,000 doses of vaccines which include AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson.

The J&J vaccine is different from other vaccines in that it requires a single shot of the vaccine, while others require two shots against the virus.

How Well the J&J Vaccine Works

The J&J/Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine was 66.3% effective in clinical trials (efficacy) at preventing laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 infection in people who received the vaccine and had no evidence of being previously infected. People had the most protection 2 weeks after getting vaccinated.

In the clinical trials, the vaccine had high efficacy at preventing hospitalization and death in people who did get sick. No one who got COVID-19 at least 4 weeks after receiving the J&J/Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine had to be hospitalized.

Health Officials Report 14 Additonal COVID-19 Deaths

Health officials have reported 14 additional deaths related to COVID-19.

In its daily update, all of the new cases of deaths occurred between August 13th and 17th.

All of the deaths were residents of New Providence, except three cases were in Abaco.

The deaths involved nine women and five men, between the ages of thirty-three and eighty-four years.

This latest report is startling as it represents the highest number of deaths recorded in a given report within a span of four days.

Health care workers have decried the overwhelming number of cases in the country as hospitals struggle to care for COVID-19 patients due to the lack of space.

Doctors have admonished Bahamians to get vaccinated to avoid hospitalizations and deaths.

Though not official, doctors speculate that the Delta variant may be in the country due to the high number of infections and deaths. Health workers say they await lab results from 100 samples to determine if the variant is in the Bahamas.

The 14 COVID-19 related deaths:

41 Female Abaco 17th August

69 Female New Providence 16th August

44 Female New Providence 16th August

46 Male New Providence 15th August

59 Female New Providence 15th August

48 Male New Providence 15th August

33 Female New Providence 15th August

71 Male New Providence 15th August

52 Male Abaco 15th August

75 Female New Providence 14th August

44 Female New Providence 14th August

84 Female New Providence 13th August

55 Female Abaco 13th August

63 Male New Providence 13th August