A 51-year-old woman on Grand Bahama was the seventh person to die of COVID-19 in The Bahamas, health officials confirmed today. The country has the highest death rate per cases in the Caribbean.

Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands said there are now 40 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the country – 33 on New Providence, six on Grand Bahama and one on Bimini. Five people have recovered.

Sands said that of the three other new cases, one patient has been admitted to the hospital. The remaining two are in isolation.

The case fatality rate in The Bahamas has been hovering between 17 and 18 percent.

Director of the National HIV/AIDS & Infectious Diseases Programme Dr. Nikkiah Forbes said this is due to a lack of widespread testing.

“The mortality rate that you are seeing is a reflection of our ability to do widespread testing,” she said during the Ministry of Health’s first virtual press conference.

“We are somewhat limited at this time and we’re working on building testing capacity. Additionally, those cases that did pass away, God rest their souls, they were older in age and had other medical comorbidities such as diabetes and hypertension, obesity and lung problems like asthma.

“I have no doubt that as we increase our capacity to do testing, we will see that mortality rate balance out. But this is a reflection of the section of the population that we have been able to test – those with moderate and severe manifestations.”

Sands said that 394 people had been tested for COVID-19 in The Bahamas.

Dr. Merceline Dahl-Regis, health consultant to the prime minister, said one of the Ministry of Health’s models predicts there will be 90 cases in the country by Sunday.

Dahl-Regis said close gatherings of large groups of people, as have been seen outside some supermarkets in the past few days, can nearly guarantee a spike in cases.

“If we continue to have these crowds gathering, we can almost predict that 14 days from now, we’ll be seeing a spike in new cases, so it is ill-advised and we ask you, if we are truly going to decrease the surge, we have to obey.”

Sands also urged the public to take social distancing seriously.

“…You will take the virus home to the people that you love – to your husband or your wife, to your boyfriend or girlfriend, to your mother, father, children, grandparents,” he said.

“Your reckless and slack decision could kill the people that you love.”