NASSAU, Bahamas – The Bahamas government says it will make available, 1,000 free tests to the population daily, even as it warned that the Omicron variant of the coronavirus (COVID-19) will seriously affect unvaccinated people in the coming months.
“It has been clear to me since the start of the pandemic that free testing is the right thing to do and the smart thing to do,” Prime Minister Phillip Davis said in a national broadcast.
“Your ability to know whether or not you have COVID should not depend on your income or wealth. And once people learn they are positive, which only testing can confirm, especially with a virus that produces so many asymptomatic cases, people can take steps to protect others around them.”
Davis told the nation that the 400 slots offered daily were filled very quickly, “so we expanded the number of free tests to 800 today and we will offer 1,000 a day beginning on Tuesday. We will also, of course, be expanding free testing nationwide”.
He said the authorities have also started the distribution of free medical-grade masks at clinics and at vaccination sites in New Providence and in the coming week, “we will also be distributing these masks at schools, for the teachers who are working there now, and in churches as well.
“Properly worn medical-grade masks are far more effective in blocking transmission of the Delta and Omicron viruses,” he said, adding that cloth masks alone are just not effective enough.
“We are working with NEMA to expand the distribution of free masks to Grand Bahama and the Family Islands as well; we expect to have more details for you later this week. Until you receive your medical-grade mask, I urge you to double mask and to make sure the material of the masks is tight across your mouth and nose.”
The Bahamas has recorded 1,458 cases from January 7-9 including a record 818 cases last Friday. Hospitalization numbers now stand at 110 with five people in the intensive care unit.
Prime Minister Davis said that with several million new cases recorded globally every day, “we are going to see very high case counts here, too.
“The vast majority of vaccinated Bahamians will experience Omicron either as an asymptomatic infection, or a bad cold, or suffer through a few days of aches and pains. However, a tiny percentage will require hospitalization. Nonetheless, our hospitals face a very serious threat. That’s because there are still many thousands of unvaccinated Bahamians, and many will become infected with Omicron.”
Prime Minister Davis warned that the “virus is going to hit our unvaccinated population very hard” and that even though a smaller percentage will require hospitalization than with previous variants, a small percentage of a very large number is still a lot of people.
“Indeed, on Thursday of last week, the director of the World Health Organization warned that a ‘tsunami’ of cases was overwhelming health systems across the world.”
I his broadcast, Prime Minister Davis made reference to the efforts to tighten the country’s borders, saying that a negative COVID-19 test taken within three days of arrival is now needed to enter The Bahamas.
“While we preferred to require PCR tests, the testing shortages and delayed lab reporting in many countries, including in the United States, made this, for the moment , unworkable for returning Bahamians and visitors alike,” he said.
If you are vaccinated, and especially if you are vaccinated and boosted, you have given yourself an excellent chance at experiencing the virus merely as an inconvenience, rather than as a life-threatening disease,” Davis said.