Prime Minister Hubert Minnis said the actions taken by partygoers in Bimini over the weekend is simply “irresponsible,” as the country tries to reopen.
Minnis told The Guardian “Something like that can set us back.”
The video, which made the rounds on social media shows a large crowd on a beach, where attendees wore no masks nor practiced social distancing. Attendees stood closely together, singing and dancing.
When asked if he would consider reimposing restrictions on Bimini, though not direct, Minnis said a decision would be based on data.
Why it matters?
Bimini reported 11 new cases on Sunday as COVID-19 cases continue to rise in the Family Islands. Restrictions like weekday curfew and weekend 24-hour lockdowns were imposed on Eleuthera and Exuma after these islands saw high cases of the virus.
Bimini shares a total of 74 COVID-19 with Cat Cay.
Police has citated the organisers and partygoers of the event.
After Prime Minister Hubert Minnis implemented restricted measures for Exuma following a rise in COVID-19 cases, area representative Chester Cooper is speaking out against one aspect of the measure that he believes will “dramatically shift the state of everyday life on Exuma”– the weekend lockdowns.
“While the rapid rise in cases on Exuma is very troubling and some restrictive measures may be warranted to slow the spread, I do not support full weekend lockdowns.
“Had anyone in Cabinet bothered to ask my advice, I would have been happy to assist,” he said.
Why it matters
Prime Minister Hubert Minnis said there is an exponential increase in cases on that island following the October holiday weekend and two major social events.
Over the past week, Exuma has recorded 30 new confirmed cases of COVID-19.
As of Tuesday, the 10th of November, a total of 79 positive cases of COVID-19 were recorded on the island of Exuma. Of that number, 28 cases are active, two are hospitalized, and there has been one COVID-19 related death.
Reasons why Chester Cooper says he opposes weekend lockdowns
They are too blunt an instrument for the situation as it stands.
Exuma is just now experiencing some relief on the tourism front after months of lingering in the economic doldrums.
Exuma has international flights now coming in from Florida and North Carolina on Saturdays.
And Exuma was experiencing serious interest in domestic travel from New Providence before the quarantine was reinstated.
Not only will this damage our brand internationally, but it will further starve Exuma’s economy of vital tourism dollars.
What PM Minnis says
Dr. Minnis acknowledged that it was short notice as the measures come into effect on Thursday, but he said the measure is a critical part of the strategy to contain and to control the spread of COVID-19 throughout the country. He said this measure is designed to stop possible spikes on other islands because of individuals who may be COVID 19 positive, quickly moving to other islands.
What’s the plan?
The strategies employed by our health officials are as follows:
When there is an exponential increase in new confirmed cases of COVID-19 over a short period of time, restrictive measures will be put in place to mitigate the spread in that location.
The number of health officials on Exuma has increased, including a team consisting of contact tracers and members of the surveillance unit will be deployed to Exuma on Friday for further assessment.
The House of Assembly passed the resolution to extend the state of emergency to November 30. The resolution passed, with 14 ‘yes’ votes and zero ‘no’ votes.
Although Opposition Leader Brave Davis and Former Health Minister Duane Sands made presentations during the debate and opposed the extension, they were absent in the House during the voting process.
Also absent in the House of Assembly were Cabinet ministers with the exception of Minister Foreign Affairs Darren Henfield and Minister of State for Disaster and Reconstruction Iram Lewis who were not present when other members were exposed to Works Minister Desmond Bannister.
Bannister tested positive for COVID-19 last week. He remains asymptomatic.
In his presentation, Sands said Cabinet should have stopped meeting in Charlotte’s House building for meetings, even opposing the meeting of Parliament during these periods. He, like House Speaker Halson Moultrie, advocate for virtual meetings or a larger setting that accommodates social distancing.
Cabinet ministers are quarantined for 14-days, beginning from the point of exposure to November 4th.
Former Minister of Health Duane Sands does not support the continuation of the Emergency Order. He reiterated that the Bahamas is underperforming in the fight against COVID-19 when compared to other countries, so the country should enact a few of his recommendations.
Sands said unlike sports which the Bahamas has championed, the Bahamas is behind and losing to COVID-19, because the strategy implemented by the government is ineffective.
“The process that we have engaged in over the 6 to 8 months have not worked. They have not worked, Mr. Speaker. We are underperforming as a nation. We are underperforming to all of our peers in the region–as it relates to cases, 80 percent of the rest of the world, and as it related to deaths, 89% of the rest of the world.”
Why it matters
Parliamentarians met in the House of Assembly on Monday to debate the extension of the state of emergency to November 30. The Bahamas has been under an emergency order since March 18 because of the rapid spread of the deadly virus.
Build a modular COVID-19 facility of approximately 100 beds for the concentration of COVID-19 patients
Conduct 1000 antigen and RTPCR tests per day
Publish a plan quickly and educate the public
Implement effective lockdowns, not on-and-off lockdowns
Bring back participatory government
End the role of the competent authority, which opposes participatory government
Promote exercise among the public as a large percentage of Bahamians has non-communicable diseases
Support access to drugs like Remdesivir and herbal medicine
Improve food security
Lift the ban on masks importation
The Big Picture
Because of the rise in COVID-19 cases, the government extended the emergency order many other times. The country has seen a rise in cases since March. On Monday, officials presented nearly 3,000 active cases. Weekend lockdowns with the implementation of a 7 pm curfew Monday through Friday, with the closure of businesses, has become a public debate.
Following the 24-hour weekend lockdown and the implementation of the 7 pm curfew, Commissioner of Police Paul Rolle said the number of citations issued by police officials, have reduced drastically.
Speaking to reporters at the Police Community Outreach on Fox Hill Park, Rolle said the message is “getting across,” as only 5 persons were ticketed in New Providence over the weekend.
“Most people have been in compliance…We hope this is soon over to move our lives back to normalcy.”
Why it matters
Hundreds of people have appeared before the Magistrate’s Court, imprisoned and fined for violating the national curfew and lockdown measures.
Social gatherings reduced
Rolle said while there were no reports of parties in New Providence, police cited lawbreakers in the Family Islands, some of whom held parties despite the COVID-19 measures. He said one particular violator in Exuma was “dealt with.”
Parties continue to be a major concern and a suspect in the spread of the infectious virus in the country. Police say they will continue to clamp down on these events.
Minnis said last month, “I want to again discourage large social gatherings and parties. We are able to relax or we must implement more restrictive measures depending on what we do together to limit the spread of COVID-19, which you see from the news is still very much out of control in many countries in the world.”
The big picture
The country hit more than 5000 cases over the holiday weekend. A 24-hour lockdown and new 7 pm curfew were enforced in New Providence and Abaco to reduce infections as the country averages one death per day.
Countries that do not adhere to COVID-19 protocols are at risk of faster contract cases and exponential increases in COVID-19.
Opposition leader Philip Davis said he nor members of the Progressive Liberal Party will attend a COVID-19 special meeting planned with Prime Minister Hubert Minnis, PAHO representative Dr. Esther de Gourville, and the Government’s Health Consultant Dr. Merceline Dahl-Regis–although they were invited.
The special meeting, announced in Dr. Minnis’ national address to the nation on Sunday, was scheduled for today, as the government strategizes a plan to combat the exponential increase of COVID-19 cases in New Providence and Abaco.
Why is the PLP not attending?
In a press conference, Davis revealed that he refuses to attend as he wants all PLP members to be in attendance. He said the invitation was only extended to three members of his organization, although Minnis said, “the leader of the opposition and his team have been invited.”
Davis said, “Three persons are not my team.”
Davis referred to this as conflicting information, thus he rearranged a separate meeting with PAHO for next Monday, October 12th.
What this means
Dr. Minnis in his address on Sunday, hinted at a possible lockdown for areas of the Bahamas where the number of cases continues to rise, adding that the meeting with key stakeholders will outline specific strategies for the way forward.
Minnis purposed that after the meetings, he will brief the nation on the recommendations of our health experts, especially on the way forward for New Providence and Abaco.
However, if Davis and his team are absent from the meetings, they miss an opportunity to problem-solve, discuss, and come to conclusions by collaborating together, particularly if a national lockdown is announced.
Dr. Minnis’ speech was littered with notions of “lockdown” with many viewers sitting on their edge of their seats, waiting for him to announce the new measure for New Providence. But it never happened.
Now many are speculating when a lockdown will be implemented by Minnis.
Here’s five things Minnis said that supports a lockdown is looming for the New Providence and Abaco:
Minnis highlighted that other countries have returned to lockdown measures to combat virus increases
He said, “Some countries have gone back to targeted lockdowns or more restrictive curfews and other measures needed to address the high number of infections, hospitalizations and, sadly, deaths.”
Minnis hinted that lockdown is an international measure used to fight the virus
“If cases rise exponentially and virus spread is out of control, governments often have no choice but to order a lockdown to save lives.
“This has become an international standard and response by most governments around the world, including countries that have generally had a good response to the pandemic.”
Minnis praised the sucess of lockdowns in Bimini and Grand Bahama
“Indeed, the targeted and sustained lockdowns in Bimini and most recently, Grand Bahama, were essential in reducing the number of infections on those islands, both of which continue to have low numbers at this time.”
Minnis painted a grim picture of COVID-19 in New Providence
“One in every 100 residents of New Providence is now infected with COVID-19.
“Sadly, we are now averaging one death per day and our medical facilities have now reached capacity.”
Minnis said PAHO and WHO representative Dr. Esther de Gourville, and Consultant Dr. Merceline Dahl-Regis are set to discuss future strategies in a “special meeting” with Cabinet and the Opposition.
“After these various meetings, I will brief the nation on the recommendations of our health experts, especially on the way forward for New Providence and Abaco.”
The country expected a full lockdown, but Prime Minister Hubert Minnis did an about-turn and surprised many.
On Monday evening, Dr. Minnis announced that New Providence was no longer considered for a complete lockdown. This announcement drew the shock and satisfaction of many who expected a complete lockdown this week following the reversal of the order last week Tuesday.
Dr. Minnis at the Ministry of Health’s press conference on Monday afternoon said, “I am happy to tell you that the health team sees positive trends developing regarding the situation in New Providence. At this time a hard lockdown is no longer recommended for New Providence.”
He said last week’s decision was based on the data available and health officials’ recommendations at that time.
Now, health officials have changed their recommendations.
Why is a ‘full lockdown’ not considered anymore?
Many of the confirmed Covid-19 cases were duplicated, presenting a false sense of alarm in the number of confirmed cases in the country.
Sunday’s dashboard reflected 1504 active cases, but after review, the number was adjusted to 1113 active cases. This shows a 391 difference in cases.
What caused the duplication?
Advisor to the Prime Minister, Dr. Merceline Dahl-Regis said a large number of cases and the significant backlog were not documented on an electronic platform, which improved its data management.
With the implementation of electronics, health officials were able to monitor the progress and revised the number of backlogged cases.
Dr. Dahl-Regis said health officials then presented the government with the corrected analysis of the cases with revised recommendations.
What are people saying?
Many Bahamians are praising Dr. Minnis for the decision to not implement a full lockdown for New Providence. They took to social media to applaud the government’s decision. People’s responses were an extreme contrast to last week’s reaction to the full lockdown, as Dr. Minnis said he was “called everything but a child of God.”
Eugene Patton said, “I am thankful for the work of the Prime Minister so far in these rough and difficult times. Furthermore, the PM made the right decision to free some of the restrictions.”
Adrianne Brennen said, “Thank you so much prime minister, for a job that was done well.”
Tracy Thompson said, “Minnis you roc.”
What does it mean for the population?
The infectious virus has not gone away, even though the government has not implemented the full lockdown. Thirty-six cases were reported on Sunday and 14 cases reported on Monday. The COVID-19 total is still high.
As people are now given the opportunity to move around with little restriction, cases will appear and there may be a far greater burden of death and illness. If they do not practice social distancing, wash their hands, and wear a mask, the numbers will increase exponentially.
People must be mindful that the extent of the virus or the number of COVID-19 cases is not known. Practice the social measures, and assume that everyone has the virus.
Lamont and Raynita met more than 15 years ago, and this month, the couple is celebrating their union as husband and wife during the coronavirus pandemic.
The onset of COVID-19 has changed travel protocols, so the couple who usually travel to the United States at every anniversary, is forced to celebrate at home under a national lockdown.
When plans were made to travel to a Family Island to celebrate their union instead, that too was cancelled.
So they celebrated at home. They got dressed, hired a photographer for pictures in their backyard, and sat down for a beautiful dinner.
Lamont, a Bahamian citizen and Raynita, an American national said the lockdown has forced them to rediscover love.
“This lockdown has made us much closer than we already were. We love being in each other’s presence, laughing and having fun.
“We realized that we weren’t spending much time together due to our busy schedules…Sometimes I would have to carry the boys to their basketball games or music performances, while my husband is still working. We didn’t realize until the lockdown, that we were barely spending quality time together,” said Raynita, the mother of two boys.
While the Sweetings are celebrating love and are enjoying quality time together during the national lockdown, many couples are inquiring about the dissolution of their marriages.
QC Wayne Munroe said he has received numerous phone calls of couples seeking divorce, as he and other attorneys see “a tremendous increase” in cases.
“I tell people that one of the quickest ways to get divorced is to spend too much time with your spouse. The little things that annoy you, you cannot get a break from it. It’s a phenomenon you’re going to see a lot more of,” he said.
But Raynita said marriage relationships are not easy, and couples should make time for each other and themselves.
Lamont offers this advice to couples in lockdown: “Put God first. Always pray together, laugh together, trust each other and be each other’s number one supporter.
“I pray that God will continue to bless our union and that we be an example to many others in these tough times.”
Bain and Grants Town MP Travis Robinson forewarned that a 7-day lockdown is likely after passage of the impending storm on the weekend.
In a Facebook post, that is now deleted, Robinson encouraged residents to prepare with grocery items and medical supplies.
“Get the much needed groceries and medical supplies as necessary. A pending storm is headed for the Bahamas and is expected to make landfall by Sunday or Monday. It is my expectation that after the storm passes depending on its impact, new 7 day complete lockdown will be imposed.”
This alert by Robinson comes after Prime Minister Hubert Minnis reversed the 7-day full lockdown after he imposed the new order “with immediate effect.”
The next day, Minnis reopened grocery stores, gas stations and pharmacies after many complaints that he did not grant sufficient time to prepare for the full lockdown.
Dr. Minnis acknowledged that he received complaints from the public about the immediacy of the lockdown and lifted it so that residents can prepare for a weather system that expected to reach the Bahamas by Sunday.
Robinson continued, “We are still at war with COVID-19, so we must remain cautious and follow the medical health protocols. We are in this fight together.”
It remains to be seen if or when Dr. Minnis will implement a full lockdown.