The Emergency Order Was Amended. Is There Still A Competent Authority?

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.


Parliament Passes Extension of Emergency Order to November 13

The House of Assembly passed the resolution to extend the State of Emergency to November 13.

At 10 pm, House wrapped up debate on the extension of the Order, with all government members agreeing to the extension.

Opposition members including Leader Philip Davis, Deputy Leader Chester Cooper, and Golden Isles MP Vaughn Miller stood to oppose the extension.

What it means

The continuation of the Emergency Order means the competent authority has the jurisdiction to impose mask-wearing and social distancing measures with more restrictive measures like lockdowns and curfews.

The big picture

COVID-19 deaths and hospitalization cases continue to explode. Health officials reported 96 new cases for the country with a strong concentration of new infections in New Providence.

Health officials are also investigating two more deaths that are believed to be COVID-19 related.

On Friday past, a record high of 228 new confirmed cases were reported.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, 16,011 cases were reported. 2584 cases remain active.

What’s next

The resolution will be moved to the Senate where it will be debated and passed.

Government Seeks to Extend Emergency Order One Final Time to Nov 13

Prime Minister Hubert Minnis tabled the new proposed extension of the Emergency Order for one final time to November 13.

The House of Assembly met for approximately half-hour to give notice of the new proposal.

Paliamentarians will meet again tomorrow to debate the resolution.

Speaking in a national address lastnight, Minnis promised it would be the last extension of the orders.

The Prime Minister said it was the intention of the government, that depending on the state of the pandemic, a move would be made toward ending the use of the Emergency Orders this month and to transition to a new legislative framework as more Bahamians were vaccinated.

Minnis said the surge in new cases, hospitalizations and deaths have caused the government to temporarily adjust plans to immediately save Bahamian lives and to protect the economy.

“My government has set a plan to further combat this wave and to transition the country to a new post-Emergency Orders regime after this deadly surge subsides,” said the Prime Minister.

“As a result of the arrival soon of new vaccine supplies, we will be able to begin the transition process away from the Emergency Orders.”

Minnis said this is only a draft of the bill and will be tabled for widespread public consultation.

“We seek the advice of the Official Opposition. We would like the input of the religious community, businesses, NGOs, labor unions, other organizations and individuals so we can make the legislation more representative before final passage and enactment.”

To help control and slow the spread of COVID-19, Minnis also announced new curfew hours for New Providence and Grand Bahama, from 9pm to 5am; and on mainland Exuma and mainland Abaco, from 10pm to 5am.

The big story

The Bahamas has been under the State of Emergency since March 2020. Since then, the government has extended the order as COVID-19 cases rose in the country.

Photo credit: The Nassau Guardian

New Curfew and Social Gathering Restrictions for North and South Bimini

The government has implemented a daily 7 pm to 5 am curfew for North and South Bimini, beginning Thursday night to assist in controlling the sudden spike in COVID-19 cases on the island.

Why it matters

Bimini Island has a total of 173 cases of COVID-19. On Monday, health officials revealed that 11 new cases on the island were linked to clusters at a local resort.

Health Minister Renward Wells confirmed on Tuesday that a health team was deployed to the island to examine the new outbreaks and carry out vaccinations on the island.

The details

The newly amended Order provides for the following on North and South Bimini:

  • Social gatherings are prohibited.
  • Funeral services may be held at the graveside only, and are limited to a maximum of 10 people,  not including officiants and funeral service workers.
  • Services are subject to physical distancing and any other health protocols issued by the Bahamas Christian Council and approved by the Ministry of Health.
  • Weddings are permitted in a church, a facility or outdoors provided that the number of attendees is limited to 10, including the officiant, and that all attendees wear masks.
  • Wedding receptions are prohibited.
  • Church services may be held daily between 6 am and 6 pm in accordance with physical distancing and other health protocols provided by the Bahamas Christian Council and approved by the Ministry of Health.
  • All bars are prohibited from operating.
  • Groups are limited to a maximum of five persons on beaches and parks.
  • Hotel and cruise ship guests will be required to remain on the premises of the hotel or cruise ship during the curfew period. Hotel and cruise ship guests may also move between the hotel and marina, to the extent the marina is part of the premises of the hotel, during the curfew period.


Minnis Announces Curfew Changes As Country Reopens in ‘Several Months’

Prime Minister Hubert Minnis announced immediate changes to the Emergency Order during his long-anticipated speech in the House of Assembly today, as he expects the country to fully reopen in the coming months.

“Our aim, here in the Bahamas is to fully reopen our country in several months if various conditions are met and advised by health officials,” he said.

The curfew in New Providence has been adjusted–11 pm to 5 am. Dr Minnis said he anticipates that in the coming months, the curfew for New Providence will eventually move to midnight, “depending on the outcome.”

In addition, Dr Minnis announced new curfew changes for Grand Bahama, which will see its curfew adjustment from 11 pm to midnight until 5 am.

Dr Minnis then joked with one of his Cabinet  Ministers from Grand Bahama, “Michael Pintard, Minister of Agriculture, I know that you would like to go out partying. And if GrandBahama stays as is, once you’re out partying, by one o’clock you will be home, so we will move Grand Bahama to one o’clock.”

In Abaco, the adjusted curfew is 11 pm to 5 am. The curfew for Cat Island and North and Central Andros is now 10 pm to 5 am.

Dr Minnis also announced the removal of curfews for the Berry Islands, South Andros and Mangrove Cay.

“…enjoy yourself, but still adhere to the protocols,” he said to the residents on islands, where curfews were lifted.

Dr Minnis also announced the immediate removal of PCR testing to travel from Grand Bahama, Cat Island and Andros.

As of July 1st, vaccinated individuals will no longer need to pay the $10 fee to acquire a health visa.

Funerals and memorial services in New Providence are now permitted to be held in a church facility in accordance with the guidelines of the Bahamas Christian Council. However, repass remain prohibited.

As for weddings, Dr Minnis said the host has to ensure that everyone in attendance is vaccinated. Private gatherings and social events are allowed as long as all attendees are vaccinated, he said.

A group of fifteen people can now attend beaches in New Providence, Paradise Island, Grand Bahama, mainland Abaco, Eleuthera, Harbour Island and Great and Little Exuma.

The number of people permitted to gather on beaches once stood at 5 people.

The big picture

At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in March of last year, Dr Minnis as the competent authority, implemented a national curfew of 9 pm and 5 am, advising the public that it would prevent the further spread of the virus. It was eventually changed to 10 pm for various islands.

Curfews on some islands like Andros, Acklins, Berry Islands, Bimini, Cat Island, Crooked Island, Eleuthera, Exuma, Grand Bahama, Inagua, and Mayaguana were discontinued and commercial and most social activities were permitted in September.

However, the rise and fall of COVID-19 cases again forced the shutdown and adjustments of curfews on some specified islands.


New Emergency Order Rewards Fully Vaccinated People with Eating Indoors

The fully vaccinated can now dine indoors.

In a new emergency order issued on Sunday, the competent authority says restaurants in the country including those on New Providence and Abaco can now offer indoor dining to patrons who have been fully vaccinated for COVID-19.

Why it matters

The announcement is significant as the country seeks to return to some sense normalcy. Indoor dining was banned at the height of the pandemic as government sought to control rise in COVID-19 cases.

This prompted the introduction of curbside services at restaurants.

The details

The vaccinated person must present a documentary proof of vaccination, but must continue to adhere to the COVID-19 protocols.

 Also, in accordance with the Order, fully vaccinated individuals will not be required to take a RT PCR test for COVID-19 to travel from New Providence and Grand Bahama, and will not be required to take secondary testing on day five of inter-island travel when traveling from New Providence or Grand Bahama.

A fully vaccinated traveler, including citizens and residents, is not required to take a RT PCR test for COVID-19 to enter The Bahamas. In the case of international travel, a fully vaccinated traveler is defined as a person who has received the required number of doses of a COVID-19 vaccine and two weeks have elapsed since the person has completed the vaccine.

Fully vaccinated travelers are still required to obtain a Travel Health Visa; however, visa fees for fully vaccinated persons have been reduced for citizens and residents.

International travel health visas for fully vaccinated citizens and residents are $10. Domestic travel visas for fully vaccinated travelers are free of charge.

The fine for submitting falsified vaccination records is $10,000 or two years imprisonment, or both.




PM: Groups on Beaches and Parks Limited to 5 People for Easter Weekend

As the Easter weekend approaches, Prime Minister Hubert Minnis stressed that groups on beaches and parks are limited to 5 people only.

He said COVID Ambassadors will monitor beaches and parks to ensure the enforcement of the Emergency order.

WITH fears growing that we could be on the brink of a third wave of COVID infections this was the scene at Cabbage Beach on Paradise Island on Sunday evening.Hundreds of youngsters had packed the eastern end of the beach all day. Few, if any, wore a mask and social distancing guidelines were blatantly ignored.
For over a year we have been warned to stick to the rules - avoid super spreader events and we can beat this pandemic. Now, with Easter just days away all pretence of playing safe seems to have been abandoned.
Photo: Racardo Thomas
Beachgoers at Cabbage Beach, Paradise Island on Sunday. Photo: Racardo Thomas

Why it matters

Beaches were reported to be crowded on Sunday past, as a large number of beachgoers ignored the social distancing and the use of masks protocol.  A picture has circulated showing the beachgoers defiant of the Emergency Order.

The big picture

Director of the National HIV/AIDS and Infectious Disease Programme at the Ministry of Health, Dr Nikkiah Forbes,  said the country is on the brink of a third wave as it is “fully possible” that COVID-19 cases could jump rapidly after the Easter holiday weekend due to increased social interaction.

What Minnis says

Minnis said large gatherings over the holiday weekend “could set the country back” as other countries grapple with a third wave of the virus.

“We can not afford a painful third wave. We all must do our part. We don’t want another surge in cases in the Bahamas. This will result in more hospitalization and more deaths.”

When asked for his response to criticism that political groups have gathered in large groups to campaign in recent weeks, Minnis said, “You would have seen them still spacing out. And each and everyone, regardless of the political organization, each and everyone was wearing a mask.”

Abaco to See Tightening of Curfew as COVID-19 Infections Climb

The restrictions in Abaco will be tightened to prevent the further spread of COVID-19 on that island.

According to Prime Minister Hubert Minnis, health officials recommend that the curfew for that island be readjusted from 8 pm to 5 am.

Minnis said there is “no outbreak” on the island but the restrictions are to curtail infections.

State of play

It was discovered that –

  • a few cases of COVID-19 were found at the Murphy Town Primary School in Central Abaco;
  • four (4) positive cases originated from a construction site; and
  • six (6) cases were confirmed to have originated from the Marsh Harbour Clinic.

Currently, no cases were reported in Sandy Point, and eleven tests are pending.

Contact tracing activities are ongoing, and the relevant staff will be placed in quarantine or isolation as required.

Consequently, the Marsh Harbour Clinic has undergone deep cleaning and sanitization and the Marsh Harbour Clinic remains open for service.

A team from the Surveillance Unit in New Providence has been dispatched to initiate contact tracing and to determine the level of exposure to the employees of the clinic and visiting clients.

Three nurses have been sent as support staff to the Marsh Harbour Clinic and two more nurses are expected to arrive soon. As it stands, there is a sufficient number of physicians on the island to manage the COVID-19 cases.

Most House Members Vote for Emergency Order Extension to May 23

The majority of the members in the House of Assembly voted in favor of the continuation of the Emergency Order to May 23.

Members wrapped up the debate at 10:45 on Wednesday night to debate the extension.

Seventeen members voted ‘yes,’ to the extension, seven voted ‘no’ and fourteen members were absent for the vote.

Why it matters

Prime Minister Hubert Minnis on Monday presented a resolution to extend the state of emergency in the country as the pandemic is still ongoing and continues to challenge the country’s health facilities.

He acknowledges, however, that the COVID-19 numbers are now low compared to recent times when double digits were recorded.

The big picture

Countries around the world are fighting variants of the disease and health officials are trying to secure vaccines to combat the virus. The Bahamas has not accessed the vaccine but has secured them for 20 percent of the population for when they become available.

PM Minnis’ Case for Emergency Order Extension

“Let me be very clear with this point: The pandemic is not over. Though there is light on the horizon, because vaccines are slowly starting to reach more countries, we still have a long way to go before we get back to normal. The Bahamas has had many months of low COVID-19 numbers. Our health guidelines are working; the emergency measures are working, and the Bahamian people are complying with the rules.

“With new strains circulating, it is quite possible for us to have additional waves before our population is vaccinated. We cannot, under any circumstances, let our guard down. The more we abide by the measures, the more we prevent a greater resurgence of the virus. We cannot become complacent and think the pandemic is over just because we have had a few good months.

Parliamentarians voting against the resolution

  • Opposition members–Philip Davis, Chester Cooper, Glennys Hanna-Martin, Picewell Forbes, and Vaughn Miller
  • Former Minister of Health Duane Sands
  • Independent MP for Centerville Reece Chipman

Worth noting

The Senate will now vote on the extension.

Here’s What You Need to Know About Minnis’ Contribution in the House Today

Members of Parliament returned to the House of Assembly today to debate the extension of the Emergency Order to May 23.

Prime Minister Hubert Minnis, in his contribution, made the case for the extension, while addressing a few other concerns in regard to CDC’s removal of the Bahamas from its level 4 travel advisory, the continuation of the unemployment benefits, and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.

What to know

-The Bahamas will move to a Level 3 Travel Health Notice, from the more serious Level 4 after a reassessment by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

-NIB’s Unemployment Benefit will be extended again to February to provide the necessary financial support to families still suffering from the economic fallout caused by the pandemic.

-Plans are on-going to ensure the effective roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccine throughout the country, to ensure the citizens and residents who choose to take the COVID-19 vaccine can do so safely and quickly.

-Vaccines approved for use in the Bahamas have met the strict and rigorous standards of the World Health Organization (WHO).

-The vaccine will not be mandatory and will be available free of charge for adults who choose to take it. So far, approved vaccines will only be administered to adults.

-The Bahamas has secured doses to vaccinate 20 percent of the population once it becomes available through the COVAX Facility assisted by WHO and PAHO.

-Additional approved vaccines may also be accessible through the African Medical Supplies Platform (ASMP) via CARICOM, and through direct contact with approved vaccine providers.

-The government is still in the process of determining which vaccines will be used and the specific date in which they will arrive in the country.

-Working arrangements for public officers are under review for the orderly and safe return to the workplace as early as February 1st. Permanent Secretaries and Heads of Department will communicate with employees.