Saturday, September 30, 2023


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.

PMH Doctors: No More Room at the Inn

Doctors are pushing Bahamians to vaccinate as the country’s main hospital is strained. There are no more beds at Princess Margaret Hospital for COVID-19 patients and external coolers are being used to store bodies.

Reporters took a tour of the hospital on Tuesday and saw firsthand the overwhelming demand on the institution as patients crammed every accessible space.

A passionate Dr Raquell Davis-Hall, Consultant in the Accident and Emergency Department minced no words in describing the dire situation.

Dr Raquell Davis-Hall, Consultant in the A&E Department

“We pass the breaking point.”

She said the A&E Department is the only place that can be used for non-COVID patients waiting to be seen by a physician.

“A&E has been stretched out since.

“We are tired.”

Davis-Hall said since her time at PMH, these times have been the worst as patients are dying quicker. This has led her to believe that the Delta variant may be in the country, although this has not been officially verified.

Health officials are awaiting results sent to a lab overseas to determine if the Delta variant is in the country.

“Patients come in at 12 am. They are breathing. In the next two hours, those persons are dead.

“This Delta variant, we have no empirical evidence that it is in the country. But we know it’s here. And this is the worse it’s ever been. From the whole time of the pandemic, since March 2020, people are dying. Young people are dying.

“People pull up at the Critical Care Block, not breathing.”

Davis said the institution has no space for patients sent from the Family Islands.

The medical tents are being used to house some COVID-19 patients.

Reporters were taken outside where COVID-19 patients were also housed in tents donated by the Samaritan Purse.

Nursing Officer Prescola Rolle said all of the tents were full to capacity.

The medical tents can only hold 35 people. Presently 34 COVID-19 patients occupy the tents and only one more bed is available.

‘I Am in the Pulpit’: Director General Defiant Over Worship Time Limit

Director General of Bahamas Information Services Kevin Harris said he will not comply with the Emergency Order which limits church services to one hour.

In a social media post, a defiant Harris who also serves as Pastor of Charisma Church said he alone will make that determination for his congregation.

“As pastor, I will determine how long my service and my sermon will run.

“There is no limit on how long I can worship God.”

In another post, Harris continues to resist the measures.

“If there is no limit on how long you can be in the number house, there should be no limit on how long I can be in the Lord’s house.”

Then on Sunday, Harris further challenged the new order which would have taken effect on Monday, stating, “I am in worship. I am in the house of the Lord. I am in the pulpit. I will step out once I am done.”

The big picture

In the face of climbing COVID-19 cases in the country, orders were reintroduced by the competent authority on Monday, to control the spread of the infectious disease.  Among them, places of worship were forced to limit the number of hours in a facility.

The order also limits the occupancy of a church facility to 33%.

Health officials reported 75 new cases on Monday, with the majority concentrated in the capital.

There are a total of 14,327 confirmed cases with 1,531 active cases.

Officials also confirmed that the death of a 42-year-old man of New Providence, on July 10, was COVID-19 related.

Why it matters

Harris, a former radio personality and talk show host, has been a long-time supporter of Minnis and was appointed to the post at BIS in 2018 when the FNM government won the 2017 General Election.

Harris heads the organization which has the responsibility for disseminating government information.

Harris joins other pastors in expressing dismay with the new measures. President of the Bahamas Christian Council, Bishop Delton Fernander, and Bishop Neil Ellis of Mt Tabor have taken to the media to express their displeasure with the order.



Passport Office Reopens After COVID-19 Exposure Causes Death

The Passport Office reopened on Wednesday following the death of an employee reportedly exposed to COVID-19.

The Thompson Blvd office was shut down for two days after the Ministry of Foreign Affairs advised the public of COVID-19 exposure in the building.

In a statement, the ministry said, “several positive COVID cases of employees” were identified, while acknowledging “the unfortunate passing of an employee.”

The two-day shut was to allow the Ministry of Health Surveillance Team to conduct a contact tracing assessment of the staff.

This comes as the country sees COVID-19 cases rise exponentially.

Prime Minister Hubert Minnis described it as “concerning” and stated that the pandemic is attacking the unvaccinated.

He said the country is seeking to access more vaccines to protect the unvaccinated.

“One thing the Bahamian populace must understand, we are in two pandemics. The vaccinated individuals are now out of the pandemic. The pandemic is finished for the vaccinated.

“The non-vaccinated are still in the pandemic. Therefore, it is essential for us to aggressively pursue vaccines so that we can vaccinate our populace as quickly and efficiently as possible so that they can move into the vaccinated portion, thus the non-pandemic,” he said.

At last report, 81 new cases were confirmed in the country—55 in New Providence, 19 in Grand Bahama, 2 in Abaco, and 4 in Bimini and Cat Cay.

Cat Island, South and Central Andros Under 14-day Lockdown. Here’s Why

Cat Island and South and Central Andros are preparing for the full implementation of a 14-day lockdown on Monday night at 8pm, as announced by Prime Minister Hubert Minnis on Sunday.

Why it matters

These islands are experiencing a significant uptick in COVID-19 cases according to health officials, where health teams are presently trying to manage the recent outbreaks and conduct contact tracing.

On Andros, nine new cases were reported in a single day

On Cat Island there are 33 active cases of the COVID-19 virus. 109 residents are in quarantine.

Seven of 13 people under investigation, tested positive on Sunday. The island has a positivity rate of 58 per cent. Seven persons were airlifted to New Providence for urgent medical care, and 6 people remain hospitalized.

The big picture

This follows the 14-day lockdown of Bullocks Harbour and Great Harbour Cay in the Berry Islands which was placed under a 14-day lockdown which began Saturday, to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus in those communities.

The cases in the Berry Island were believed to be originated from a recent church event.

Minnis said on Sunday that the country “must contain the spread of this virus on Bullocks Harbour and Great Harbour Cay, where there are 24 active cases of the COVID-19 virus.”

The Details

  • Travel, to and from Cat Island, and North and Central Andros, is prohibited during the lockdown, except for essential workers (Royal Bahamas Police Force, Royal Bahamas Defence Force, healthcare professionals, Bahamas Power and Light technical personnel), mailboat and Seacorp operators, and commercial bank personnel, or as, otherwise approved by the Competent Authority.
  • There will be no in-person activities permitted, including no burials held. Every agency, business or establishment, shall remain closed, except for the Royal Bahamas Police Force, the Royal Bahamas Defence Force, Government Community Clinics, and COVID-19 vaccination sites.
  • No individual, other than an essential worker, shall leave his or her place of residence, for any purpose other than, for  the purpose of seeking urgent medical attention, to go to a vaccination site, or on prescribed days, to purchase food, water and other essential items.
  • Food store owners, will be allowed to restock their stores, after the arrival of the  mailboat, and the Seacorp. Food stores, may be opened for two days, between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. after the mailboat has arrived. Residents may leave their homes, to go to the food store during the two days, immediately following the arrival of the mailboat only.
  • Farmers are permitted to water their crops, between the hours of 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. Subsistence fishing is permitted.
  • The respective commercial banks, may reload their Automated Banking Machines. Gas stations, may open on Fridays from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. for government agencies only. Customs and Immigration, will be able to fulfil their duties as needed. Security guard services, will be permitted.
  • Hotel workers carrying identification, will be permitted to traverse, to and from their places of employment.
  • Harvesting of crabs during the lockdown period, is permitted from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m.

Featured Picture: BIS–Prime Minister Hubert Minnis and Health Advisor Dr Merceline Dahl-Regis at Sunday’s press conference.

Moultrie Calls Out PM and Abruptly Adjourns the House. Here’s Why

In a surprising move in the House of Assembly today, House Speaker Halson Moultrie suspended the House session, setting a new date for parliamentarians to meet after the clerk tested positive for COVID-19.

But before adjourning the House, he openly rebuked Prime Minister Hubert Minnis and Government Business Leader Renward Wells for permitting the House to meet despite the positive case among staff and the parliament not being sanitized before meeting.

Moultrie said he reached out to both Minnis and Wells to determine if House should still meet today, and determine the measures staff should take, only to receive a message from Minnis saying, “noted.”

Another staffer, who Moultrie said should have been in quarantine, Asharan Lightbourne was “called upon to be here this morning, in breach of the request or the instruction of the speaker that [she] should be in quarantine,” he said.

The big picture

Since the advent of COVID-19, Moultrie has been calling on the government to pass a resolution to meet in hybrid form or virtually to prevent chances of more parliamentarians from contracting the virus. But those calls were not adhered to.

Why it matters

A staff member tested positive for the virus. Though not identified, it is believed to be the chief clerk as he was noticeably absent today. The Speaker described the staffer as the “closest person to him in the House.”

The staffer came to work on Monday and Tuesday showing symptoms of the virus, but returned home early after not feeling well. However, came back to work last week Wednesday when parliamentarians met.

His positive diagnosis was revealed yesterday.

What Moultrie is saying

Moultrie said parliament is in breach of its own order. “This is my final straw when it comes to the disrespect of the speaker. According to the rules, when the behaviour of a member is creating disorder, the speaker is authorized by rule 88, subsection 9 to adjourn the parliament until the circumstance is fixed,” he said.

“I don’t pick fights or wars, but if you want war, you will get a war. If you don’t want a war, don’t start one.”

Referencing Minnis who earlier stated that he read a book on wars, Moultrie continued, “So don’t come in this parliament talking about reading books of war. More than one person in this parliament read books of war.”

State of play

Because of the adjournment by Moultrie, the next session of the House will be May 3 at 10 am.

Limited Availability of COVID-19 Vaccines

The limited supply of vaccines in the country has forced health officials to narrow down inoculation to Bahamian citizens and permanent residents 18 years of age and over, and residents in the previously stated priority groups only.

The Prime Minister’s Office released a statement on Monday evening saying that health officials are awaiting the arrival of more vaccines in the country before the end of May so that all residents will be eligible to receive the jab.

The previously stated priority groups are:

  • Healthcare workers
  • Persons 50 years of age and older
  • Persons with disabilities
  • Uniformed branches (RBDF, RBPF, COVID Ambassadors, BDOCS, Customs and Immigration)
  • Teachers and staff of schools
  • Hospitality workers (hotel and resort employees, public transportation workers, Lynden Pindling International Airport (LPIA), Nassau Airport Development (NAD)Co., Nassau Cruise Port (NCP), straw market, port, and beach vendors, and tour operators
  • Restaurant and retail workers
  • Students and athletes studying or competing abroad, coaches, and other support
  • Home-bound physically disabled residents
  • Members of the clergy; and
  • Accredited media (editors, reporters/anchors, photographers, and videographers).

Proof of citizenship, permanent residency status or a work ID will be required at the vaccination site. Failure to present the requested ID will result in appointment cancellation..

Persons who have already received a first dose of the vaccine will be eligible to receive the second dose which is scheduled to begin on May 10.


New COVID-19 Strains and Increase in Cases Worries Wells

Health Minister Renward Wells said the country is seeing a “three-fold increase in cases,” as it battles the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Wells, speaking in the House of Assembly on Wednesday morning, said the scientific data shows that the country is experiencing another surge.

“Our data clearly shows that we are in another surge. We are noticing a pattern that was seen at the beginning of the second wave.”

Why it matters

As the country continues its vaccine roll-out, health officials are seeing an increase in the number of cases on a daily basis over the last two weeks. New infections are believed to be driven by international travel and a relaxed adherence to the health measures.

Dr Merceline Dahl-Regis, special health advisor to the Office of the Prime Minister, and chair of the COVID-19 Vaccine National Committee stated at a press conference on Tuesday, that officials have been identified variants of the disease from the United Kingdom, Brazil and South Africa, and most recently from India.

“These variants spread more easily and are infecting younger age groups. The cases may be more severe,” Dahl-Regis said.

What Health Minister is saying

“…we saw how COVID-19 cases slowed down during the second wave at the end of October, beginning of November 2020 with no definitive end. We maintained a steady-state for some months.”

“However, by the end of February beginning of March, the picture changed, and in recent weeks there has been a three-fold increase in cases, which is almost 300%, from that time to now,” Well said.

The big picture

New Providence is the epicenter and the greatest contributor to the total COVID-19 statistics in the country, which means almost 60% of new cases are in the capital.

There has been a quieting of new cases on Eleuthera, Abaco and Grand Bahama compared to prior weeks.

Second Batch of AstraZeneca Vaccine Arrives in Country

More than 33,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine arrived in the country today, accessed through the WHO/PAHO COVAX Facility.

Prime Minister Hubert Minnis and members of the National COVID-19 Vaccine Consultative Committee were on hand to receive the shipment of the 33,600 doses which arrived at 11 am today.

Why it matters

This is the second batch of AstraZeneca vaccine to arrive in the country. The first batch of 20,000 doses was donated by India, which saw the inoculation of over seven thousand Bahamians.

The big picture

The AstraZeneca vaccine has received its share of criticism, nationally and internationally as nearly a dozen European countries temporarily halted its use as blood clot concerns grew among a small group of people inoculated by the vaccine.

These countries have since resumed the use of the vaccine after the European Medicines Agency (EMA) said its initial investigation has concluded that the vaccine is “safe and effective.”

What Minnis says today

Minnis admonished Bahamians to come forward quickly to get vaccinated when they are eligible to do so, insisting that the vaccine is the pathway to opening the economy and the creation of more jobs.

“It is dangerous to delay taking the vaccine in a global health crisis. As you wait, you can get infected by the virus. You can then end up in the hospital with permanent health issues or worst, it could kill you.

“The virus remains dangerous and is random in who it infects. Having COVID-19 can set you back for days, weeks, or many, many years.

“The only way out of the pandemic is through vaccination,” he said.

To prevent a third wave, Minnis advised Bahamians to receive the vaccination.

Rosewood Baha Mar Set to Welcome Back Staff and Guests on March 4

Hundreds of Bahamians are set to return to work at the Rosewood Baha Mar as it plans to reopen on March 4.

Why it matters

Thousands of Bahamians were furloughed at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic as major resorts closed their doors when the country’s border was shut to prevent further spread of the infectious disease.

The resort reopened Grand Hyatt, Baha Mar Casino and a few other restaurants and amenities in December.  The Rosewood would be part of its final reopening phase as the hotel welcomes guests back to its resorts.

Other details

Café Boulud The Bahamas, Baha Mar

Rosewood would reopen with Café Boulud The Bahamas which will offer the glamour of traditional French cuisine combined with the warm hospitality of a neighborhood café in a sophisticated Bahamian setting.

It will be led by the globally renowned Chef Daniel Boulud.

The menu will be inspired by Boulud’s four culinary muses – La Tradition, La Saison, La Mer and Le Voyage – in order to create a unique menu that will highlight the seasonality of local Caribbean ingredients.

Featuring some of the classical French dishes synonymous with Chef Daniel, Café Boulud will also showcase local vegetables and seafood, along with signature dishes like Paupiette of Sea Bass.

Featured image: Rosewood Baha Mar