bahamas

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

bahamas

House Speaker Gets No Sympathy From the Public

As House Speaker Halson Moultrie awaits for government to address a litany of concerns at his office, such as no running water, no bathroom facility, a leaking roof, and the presence of moulds, the public shows no pity.

In recent days, House Speaker Halson Moultrie decried the condition at his office, warning that if the government does not address his concerns, he would “turn in the keys,” by the end of October.

How did that come about?

Prime Minister Hubert Minnis addressed a structural issue at Cabinet saying that his government hopes to relocate soon due to a leaking roof at Charlotte’s House, as the building where ministers meet, has already been condemned.

Moultrie then raised his concerns and rebuked the government for overlooking his office. He said if the executive branch will not work in his best interest, he will not be attending the office space.

“A man should never respect any other man above himself. So God is not a respect of persons. I will not sit and accept such a circumstance,” he said.

Should we feel sorry for Moultrie?

Some social media users showed no empathy for Moutrie, saying Bahamians have been dealing with situations like his for many years.

Shane McDonald said, “I’m glad that’s happening to him. Now he will see just how the Bahamian people feel.”

Scott Lowe said, “How many Bahamians have to walk to the corner pump to get water every day and this man wants fancy kitchen and private bathroom, all because he holds a ceremonial position in a farce of the government.”

One person identified as Monique Pratt-Ferguson said, “Ok, now it’s a big deal. Persons have been working in government facilities for years in those conditions. Now it hits home, it’s a problem.”

Bahamians Advised to Take Additional Funds When Traveling for Unforeseen Expenses Related to COVID-19 Protocols

Bahamians traveling abroad should carry sufficient funds to cover unforeseen additional COVID-19 expenses, advised the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Why?

  • A large number of Bahamians are approaching Bahamas embassies and consulates overseas requesting financial assistance related to COVID-19 testing, quarantine, accommodations, and airline ticket changes.
  • Overseas missions do not have sufficient discretionary financial resources to accommodate and maintain persons who find themselves stranded because of a lack of funds.
  • Persons traveling in this COVID environment should anticipate that there will be delays and interruptions in their schedules that may result in them having to remain in these overseas jurisdictions longer than they had intended.

What’s the procedure for help?

Request for assistance is considered on its own merits. The general policy governing the award of financial assistance to Bahamians in foreign jurisdictions is to have a family member, etc, deposit with the Consular Division of the ministry an amount equivalent to the amount requested of the Overseas Mission by the person who, because of unforeseen circumstances resulting from COVID-19 protocols requires assistance.

The funds will then be advanced to the individual by the nearest Consular Office, whose funds will then be reimbursed by the ministry.

3 Islands In Exuma Chain Selling for $15 Million

Little Hawksbill Cays in Exuma are up for sale.

The private chain comprises of three islands and is on the market for $15 million.

Private Islands for Sale at Exuma Cays, Exuma Bahamas
Photo credit: Damianos Sotheby International Realty

Why it matters

Interest in private islands has increased as the global pandemic continues, creating an urgency for these private islands. People from big cities want to retreat to places of little to no population.

The big picture

The Bahamas has more private islands on sale than anywhere else in the wider Caribbean region.

Private Islands for Sale at Exuma Cays, Exuma Bahamas
Photo credit: Damianos Sotheby International Realty

What we know

  • The Little Hawksbill Cays are located south of Hawksbill Cay in the Exuma Cays National Park.
  • They are listed with George Damianos of  Damianos Sotheby’s International Realty.
  • The 3 Islands have a freehold title, totaling 54 acres, consisting of 39, 10, and 5 acres of island.
  • All of the islands have beaches and protected anchorage.
  • A fabulous place to develop and create your family retreat. The Exuma Cays have long been a cruising destination, perfect for world-class diving, fishing, and snorkeling.

What they’re saying

George Damianos told Caribbean Journal Invest, “An opportunity like this comes once in a lifetime–it’s protected, beautiful beaches and clear waters.”

A Disease is Consuming the Country’s Coral Reef System. What You Need To Know

The Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease is destroying the coral reef system on the south coast of Grand Bahama and Minister of Marine Resources Michael Pintard fears the disease is attacking corals in other parts of the country.

Scientists from Perry Institute for Marine Science confirmed that the threat seems to be making its way to New Providence.

Pintard warned that this is a challenge that lies ahead for the Bahamas as the disease has largely gone unnoticed by the public.

Why it matters?

Corals house fish species and provide protection from storm surge as it shields the shorelines from waves, storms, and floods, helping to prevent property damage and erosion.

The Bahamian local economy receives billions of dollars from tourists through diving tours and recreational fishing trips.

In response to the disease, Cabinet has approved the formation of a task force to mitigate its spread. Pintard said the Ministry of Tourism recently approved to underwrite the cost of an assessment of western New Providence, where the disease has also been spotted.

What causes the disease?

ipoloria labyrnthiformis (grooved brain coral) Infected with SCTLD at Traveler’s, Sandyport, Baha Mar and Lighthouse Boulders © Hayley-Jo Carr (PIMS & Reef Rescue Network)

There is little knowledge on why the disease occurs and scientists do not know the definitive pathogen that is attacking the corals.

Since late 2019, the ministry was notified of the outbreak in Bahamian waters but the suspected bacterial disease was first discovered in Florida in 2014, and has since been detected in a number of countries in the wider Caribbean.

How widespread is the problem?

This disease is a problem because it has a very high mortality rate and it affects over ten species of corals.

Perry Institute for Marine Science said the following corals were most commonly infected:

  • Montastrea cavernosa (large-cup star coral)
  • Pseudodiploria strigosa (symmetrical brain coral)
  • Dilporia labryinthiformis (grooved brain coral)
  • Pseudodilporia clivosa (knobby brain coral)
  • Orbicella annualaris (lobed star coral)

Scientists said its survey of 1,257 corals in New Providence, 37% of them were infected with the disease.

The Perry Institute said urgent attention is needed to protect the corals from the disease.

“Based on the data we have now, we believe vessels commuting between Grand Bahama, New Providence and Florida may have expedited the spread of SCTLD.” 

Featured Image: Perry Institute for Marine Science

The Bahamas Is Closer to a COVID-19 Vaccine. Will You Be Vaccinated?

As the world fights to develop and mass-produce an effective vaccine against the coronavirus, the Bahamas is seeking to secure enough vaccine to help fight the virus in the country.

Like many governments around the world, the Bahamas’ government is hoping the vaccine will assist in returning daily life to normalcy.

What is the status of the COVID-19 vaccine for the Bahamas?

Health Minister Renward Wells announced that the Cabinet of the Bahamas has approved vaccination for 20 percent of the population through the World Health Organisation via the Pan American Health Organisation.

Wells said the Bahamas will make a down payment of $2 million to ensure 80,000 people including front line workers and the country’s most vulnerable, are vaccinated.

The country is expected to receive the vaccines in the first phase of the distribution, he said.

Wells said all countries are required to make a down payment on the vaccines.

How does a vaccine work?

According to the WHO, vaccines save millions of lives each year, and work to prepare the immune system to recognize and fight off the virus.

If the body is exposed to the virus, the body is immediately ready to destroy them, preventing illness, the WHO says.

Vaccines have been used to prevent numerous life-threatening diseases like diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, influenza and measles.

WHO says currently there are over 169 COVID-19 vaccine candidates under development, with 26 of these in the human trial phase.

The health organization says it is working with scientists, business, and global health organizations to speed up the pandemic response.

When a safe and effective vaccine is found, WHO says it will facilitate the equitable access and distribution of these vaccines to protect people in all countries. People most at risk will be prioritized.

Dioniso Says Tourism Takes Better Care of Bahamians. Why Tourism Won’t Ever Go Away

Tourism Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar is anticipating all major hotels to reopen by October 15.

He said the government is targetting the full operations of beaches across the country.

D’Aguilar said the government wants to ensure a sustainable opening as the reopening and closing has impacted the industry.

“That was too traumatic for the tourism sector and significantly impacted our relationship with our travel partners,” he said.

The government is eyeing a complete reopening of the industry by early November, D’Aguilar said.

Will the Bahamas ever do away with tourism?

The answer is no.

D’Aguilar said tourism is the only industry that has proven to rebound after hurricanes, pandemics, and global recessions.

The industry has exacerbated the growth of the economy and is the number one provider of foreign exchange and primary source revenue for the treasury of the Bahamas.

D’Aguilar said there is no other economic sector that can deliver with immediacy and magnitude, the foreign exchange, employment levels, and tax revenues. Many developing countries, including the Bahamas, rely on tax receipts from its tourism industries
to facilitate food and construction imports.

He argued that the economic potential is unparalleled as tourism is the worlds’ second-fastest-growing sector and the world’s largest employer of skilled and unskilled workers.

In fact, human capital development for the Bahamas–housing, education, health, infrastructure, and tax revenue is derived from the millions of tourists who visit the Bahama shores each year.

What about diversification?

Ever since the Bahamas tourism suffered a major hit during the COVID-19 pandemic, critics have argued that the Bahamas must look to diversify its economy, with less dependency on the sector. The Bahamas has seen a 56 percent fall-off in visitor arrivals during the first six months of the year – from a record 3.9 million arrivals in 2019 to 1.7 million in 2020.

D’Aguilar said this shows a misunderstanding of trade, markets, and how economies function.

Instead, D’Aguilar touts diversification within the industry.

He said it means the country has to incorporate more local content from manufacturing, culture and heritage, arts and entertainment, accommodations, restaurants, authentically Bahamian products, and transportation to build a dynamic market, and to ensure that every dollar spent by the visitor on those goods and services stays in the country and in the hands of Bahamians.

What are the challenges facing the Bahamas’ market?

D’Aguilar admits that challenges face the  Bahamas.

He said the country’s marketplace is more vulnerable than many in our region, and indeed around the world. He added that it is neither as robust nor as competitive as it could be, stating that it lacks diversity and has been starved of significant increases in new, locally owned businesses and market innovation for many years.

He acknowledged that the country can improve its tourism model to increase trade and economic opportunity.

Can You Survive the 2020 School Year?

October 5th is the targetted date for the reopening of schools in the Bahamas.

New Providence, Abaco and Eleuthera will engage in online learning, while schools in Grand Bahama and other Family Islands will offer face-to-face learning.

Education Minister Jeffrey Lloyd in a report to the nation announced that an increase in the infection rate of the COVID-19 in New Providence and Family Islands has forced the Department of Education to urgently plan and consider the reopening of schools, which was previously scheduled to reopen September 21st.

However, Bahamas Union of Teachers Belinda Wilson is lamenting that education officials did not confer the new date with the union and is asking education officials for the policy that will govern online and in-person learning amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Will online learning cause problems?

Some teachers have taken to social media to vent their frustrations about the logistics of reopening schools, questioning if the government will provide the digital devices for the teaching instructions, how to ensure student attendance in online learning, and the care of their children as they teach online classes.

Director of Education Marcellus Taylor said employers, to the extent that they can, should consider some levels of flexibility around working arrangements or allowing children to come along with their parents to work, if possible.

He added that attendance officers will ensure the attendance of students, and resource packages will be issued to students without access to the internet and a computer.

Wilson, appearing on Beyond the Headlines, queried the number of hours given for students in a virtual setting, saying the officials assigned too many hours for students to sit and learn virtually.

She also questioned how teachers will assess students’ examinations and quizzes, and how administrators will assess teachers’ performance.

Dr. Ebby Jackson proprietor of Palmdale Vision Center said the online learning has a negative effect on the eyes. Jackson appearing on Beyond the Headlines said eyes were not made to be locked onto a computer screen for long periods of time, which she said will be problematic for teachers, parents, and the students, particularly if either party suffers from an underlying condition.

What are the risks of in-person schooling?

While online learning may present some economic and social impediments, face-to-face classes present clear public health risks to the physical reopening of schools. Though not surging in the Family Islands, COVID-19 cases are springing up.

And schools bring together hundreds of students, which may present a challenge with talking and camaraderie during the lunch period, which experts say cause the virus to spread.

However, most schools on the islands have small population sizes, and Taylor said these schools permit for social distancing, in contrast to schools in New Providence.

Officials announced that students will be spaced 3 feet apart in the classroom, but Wilson is calling for 6 feet spacing, as stipulated for social protocols.

Wilson questioned the class sizes under which teachers will be expected to engage students and implored that education officials install acrylic or plexiglass sheets around the desks of teachers, to reduce the spread.

How Do You Pronounce Isaias?

Isaias is the ninth tropical storm and the second hurricane in the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season. As it barrels through the Bahamas, the pronunciation seems unclear as newscasters and citizens alike have presented different versions of the pronunciation.

What should we expect? Isaias is believed to be the Spanish and Portuguese version, and we are an English speaking country.

The English version is “Isaiah,” meaning “God is my salvation.”

Isaias, pronounced ees-ah-EE-ahs, arrived in the Bahamas as a category 1 hurricane with sustained winds of 75 miles per hour, lashing the island of Andros and now bearing over Grand Bahama.

Before crawling to the Bahamas, It travelled through Puerto Rico and Dominican Republic where it caused flooding, power outages, toppled trees, destroyed homes and crops and created small landslides.One man died in the Dominican Republic.

In Puerto Rico, it swept away one woman, whose body was recovered Saturday, before National Guard could rescue nearly 35 people from floodwaters.

The pronunciation of the name has not been clear to non-Hispanic speakers.

Politicians have refused to pronounce the name and have referred to it as “the hurricane.” And broadcasters have said various versions of the pronunciation.

Here is how to pronounce Isaias:

Tropical Storm Isaias Is Now Hurricane Isaias

Tropical Storm Isaias upgraded to a hurricane after midnight.

Hurricane Isaias has maximum sustained winds of 80 mph and is moving northwest from about 80 miles east-southeast of Great Inagua Island, according to the National Hurricane Center.

The Center says the intensity forecast shows a stronger storm than before, but the track forecast remains unchanged.

Meteorologists forecast that Hurricane Isaias will cross the archipelago on Saturday with heavy rainfall which will result in flooding and surges in parts of the low-lying areas of the Bahamas.

Prime Minister Hubert Minnis warned at the press conference on Thursday evening, ““We know from past and recent experience that storms could change course very quickly,’ Minnis said. “They can intensify rapidly as we saw with hurricane Dorian.. So I ask all Bahamians and residents to take this storm seriously and to make preparations.”

Last September, the Bahamas was hit with Hurricane Dorian, a category 5 storm that devastated Abaco and parts of Grand Bahama, killing many and damaging properties.

The country has not fully recovered as some Haitian migrants remain in shelters and rebuilding as yet to take place. Some residents of Abaco have transitioned to domes which remain susceptible to Hurricane Isaias.

Picture credit: National Hurricane Center

Ministry of Tourism Back-Pedals On Negative COVID-19 Test Result for Bahamian Guests at Hotels

The Ministry of Tourism and Aviation is walking back a negative COVID-19 test requirement for Bahamians on hotel property, which has garnered criticism from the public.

The ministry says, “Following consultation with the Ministry of Health, the Competent Authority (who is Prime Minister Hubert Minnis) has affirmed that a negative COVID-19 RT-PCR test will not be required by Bahamian and resident guests of hotels.”

Just yesterday, a press release from the ministry said hotels and resorts should not allow international guests nor Bahamian residents on property without negative COVID-19 test results, as the ministry said it was aware of special offers and packages being offered by hotels for Bahamian residents during the weekend lockdown periods.

Now today, the ministry says it has recommended, and the Competent Authority has agreed to, two provisions:

1. The Public Health measures that the Ministry of Health has put in place for the protection of the public, inclusive of mask wearing, social distancing and sanitization protocols, be strictly adhered to. These are detailed in the Emergency Powers Orders, on the Ministry of Health’s website and in the manual created by the Ministry of Tourism and approved by the Ministry Health for the reopening of our tourism industry.

2. Indoor dining is to be closed.

The ministry says the Royal Bahamas Police Force will be particularly vigilant in its surveillance of hotel properties to ensure compliance and warned that properties will be fined and/or closed per the Orders if they are found to be in violation.