The House of Assembly passed an amendment to the COVID-19 Pandemic (Special Provisions) 2021 in the House of Assembly on Wednesday, seeking to end the Emergency Order which expires on Saturday. But not without question from the Opposition, who queried the controversial title of the competent authority.
The Emergency Order was implemented by the former Minnis administration. This bill seeks to replace it with a few changes.
Who gets the new power?
The title of the competent authority is no longer a part of the new bill. Instead, powers lie within the Ministry of Health which has control of the ongoing pandemic. Particular powers are also given to the Minister of Health Michael Darville who can shut down businesses, on the advice of the Chief Medical Officer, if it does not adhere to the regulations or if there is an outbreak.
Under the former administration, Former Prime Minister Hubert Minnis was criticized for the title, which gave him sole powers, on the advice of medical officers, to operate in that vein.
What are the new changes and how will they work?
Aspects of the Emergency Order will come to an end which includes the curfews. However, Bahamians will still be required to wear masks, sanitize, and socially distance themselves.
Businesses are still required 50% occupancy and admittance of patrons showing proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test.
Businesses must give a protocol document pertaining to its guidelines for operation as approved by the Ministry of Health.
What do others think?
Former Cabinet Minister and Marco City MP Michael Pintard supports changes to the bill but worries that the Minister of Health, Michael Darville may now run the risk of becoming the new competent authority, due to his new duties in the bill.
Pintard thinks the powers are too broad and are similar to powers Minnis once held, which the PLP, when it was in opposition, readily criticized.
“The competent authority, if you’re not extending the emergency powers, should come to an end … in the shortest possible period of time. It was only designed for a short period of time,” he said.