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officeoftheprimeminister

Thursday, August 18, 2022

officeoftheprimeminister

Dancehall Artist Dexta Daps Cancelled. Angry Fans React

Following the cancellation of a concert featuring Dancehall Artist Dexta Daps, Bahamians took to social media to express their disapproval.

Latrae Rahming, director of communications in the Office of Prime Minister announced late Tuesday that the government denied approval for the Dexter Daps concert which was scheduled for the weekend in New Providence and Grand Bahama, citing COVID-19 risk.

Many anticipated the event would be given approval. Even Promoter Clayvon Duncombe of Phluid Factory was confident the event would be held despite its wait for approval by the Ministry of Health and Wellness.

“Please people continue to buy your tickets. Don’t be afraid,” he insisted.

“Phluid Factory is here. If you don’t know, now you know.

“Dexta Daps concert [is]this weekend. Big shout out, like I said, to the Ministry of Health and Wellness.

“Big shout out to the PLP government. We know this [is] a new day. All of our protocols are in place. The [COVID-19] numbers are low.

“This is a good day and this is the best time to have an event right.

“This is a weekend where persons will be socializing anyway because of the other events.”

When Rahming made the announcement, it set off an angry wave across Twitter.

James Julmis called it a “stupid decision.”

“If hotels can have concerts, why not the small local promoters.”

Ashanti said, “Bravery and friends have done it again.”

Davonya was in disbelief, “I hate it here. Concert can’t happen even though ya gotta take COVID test to get in.”

Davis Spends Christmas in COVID Isolation After Close Contact with Family Who Contracted the Virus

Prime Minister Philip Davis is in COVID isolation following close contact with a family member who tested positive for the infectious disease.

In a COVID-19 Ministry of Health press briefing, Davis spoke from his home while in quarantine, stating that he was exposed to COVID-19 by visiting family members from the United States.

Though he tested negative after multiple testings, he is quarantined to ensure he is not ill and to prevent passing the virus on to others.

His wife, Marie Davis, and other family members tested positive for the virus, he said, though they were fully vaccinated.

The big picture

COVID 19 cases in the country are climbing after months of a lull.  Twenty-six cases were reported on Monday, 73 reported on Tuesday; and 140 cases on Wednesday. Though the new variant, Omicron has not been found in the Bahamas, health officials said they are monitoring the situation closely and have sent samples to Panama for testing.

Why it matters

Health officials around the world have described the Omicron as milder than the Delta variant but more transmissible.  In fact, It has overtaken Delta as the dominant strain in the USA and the UK.

Officials fear that the Christmas holidays will cause an explosion of new cases, resulting in overwhelmed hospitals, and deaths among people who are immunocompromised.

What Prime Minister Davis says

Davis said the country should expect difficult weeks ahead, as health officials gauge the increase of infections in the country and in Florida.  He said his government will operate as if the virus is already here and is preparing to distribute medical-grade masks; introduce new measures at the border– Bahamians and visitors will have to test negative within 3 days instead of 5; restrict indoor gatherings to 20 people and outdoor gatherings to 30 people; extend the vaccination program to the inner-city communities.

Davis Says ‘No’ to Christmas Carnival

The government has prohibited the operation of Christmas Carnival citing the great health risk it poses on the country amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a late-afternoon press conference, Press Secretary Clint Watson read a statement from Prime Minister Philip Davis who said McCafferty’s Enterprises Bahamas Limited will not be permitted to operate.

“The Carnival organizers submitted a fresh application supported by additional 35 pages of information which sought to address the concerns raised by the experts. The panel considered their submission closely but decided that the transmission risk associated with the Carnival remained too high and the protocols presented would not sufficiently mitigate against the spread of COVID,” Davis said in a statement.

Davis said he gave his final word on the advice of the Ministry of Health, adding that the opening of the rides will pose a great health risk to the public as the more transmissible Omicron variant continue to cause alarm in countries around the world.

Davis also said the opening will hamper the opening of schools in January.

The big story

The operation of the Christmas Carnival has become controversial in recent days as some argue it can become a super spreader event. Minister of Health Michael Darville denied the company was allowed to open even though the rides were permitted to set up on Clifford Park.

However, Senator Maxine Seymour tabled a letter in the Senate showing the Ministry of Finance had given the Progressive Liberal Party permission to import “equipment, apparatus, trailers and supplies” for the event.

This is the first time, Davis is lending his voice to the matter as many awaited his response to the debacle.

What’s next?

Lawyers for the company said yesterday it would still operate whether or not health officials approved their application.

Now that the approval application has again been denied by the government, reports are the company will leave the country.

It remains to be seen if the company will file a lawsuit against the government. When asked by a reporter if the government expects a lawsuit, Watson who did not take any questions from reporters only said he will address the matter on Friday.

 

 

Watson Holds First White House-Style Press Conference

Newly appointed Press Secretary Clint Watson held his first press conference on Wednesday, touting his government’s achievements with more than a month in office.

Mimicking the press conferences held at the White House in the USA, Watson stood behind a podium and in front of a logo that resembles the White House. He provided information to the press and held a question-and-answer session at the end, hoping to bring an American style of press conferences to the prime ministership of Philip Davis.

Watson said the Davis administration has already begun to remediate the public health and economic crises brought on by COVID-19 and is “solving the lack of transparency, poor fiscal management and blatant disrespect towards the Bahamian people.”

Watson said the new administration has “wasted no time on delivering on its promises of a new day,” while praising his government’s pilot program of free testing on the Family Islands, its collaboration with health officials in its COVID-19 response, adjustments to curfews and the removal of restrictions for business operations.

He added, “The Davis administration is just getting started. Don’t think by a long shot that we are done or that we are out of air. We are just getting started.”

Following heavy criticisms from the media due to his office’s new and restrictive guidelines for the press, Watson said his government will be accountable and accessible to the media, increasing two-way communications and public engagement.

Ironclad Press Rules Imposed by Press Secretary Will Make it Harder to Hold Davis’ Administration Accountable

With only two weeks in the seat as press secretary, former Journalist and News Director Clint Watson imposed stringent rules for the press that will make it harder for reporters to hold the new government accountable.

The new rules include guidelines for special interviews, scheduled interviews and accreditation.

Here are the new guidelines

  1. Absolutely no interviews should take place while the Prime Minister or a Cabinet Minister is attending an event unless they are approved by the press secretary.
  2. Random Cabinet Office interviews will be discontinued.
  3. Only accredited journalists and staff will be permitted into Cabinet and OPM briefings.
  4. Reporters requesting specific responses to issues, should communicate with the Press Secretary Office by 6 pm the latest, the night before the briefing.
  5. All requests for interviews and comments from the Prime Minister and Cabinet will be facilitated through the press secretary.
  6. Reporters without a boom stand will not be permitted to participate in interviews.
  7. The press secretary or an officer from the OPM will advise at the event if the prime minister will be taking interviews and the parameters of such an interview. Failure to comply could result in credentials being reconsidered from the Office of the Prime Minister and Cabinet Minister press pool.
  8. The dress code should be business attire unless otherwise specified.
  9. A press officer will indicate the final question toward the end of the briefing, no further questions should be asked thereafter.
  10. Accreditation forms should be filled out by media houses and submitted to the Office of the Press Secretary for approval.

These hard rules would allow Davis and his Cabinet ministers to dodge reporters’ questions and evade responses to pressing and controversial matters.

Most newsworthy stories come when reporters ask questions on the sidelines of a public event. The powers of the press secretary as indicated by these rules, show that the new government desires to suppress information and limit what the public knows.

Watson, as a former journalist, knows this but has quickly changed positions since acquiring the new role.

In his former position as host of Beyond the Headlines, Watson consistently condemned the former administration, accusing them of avoiding the press. Now, he has created strict rules to silence the press, punish the media if they do not adhere, and ensure Davis and his ministers say less to the public.

Why does he see the need to protect them from the public? Why should he determine who gets access to public servants?

Watson’s role should be to manage and organize communications activities on behalf of the new government.

These rules are a return to the Pindling era when news media was heavily restricted.

Former Health Minister Duane Sands expressed his displeasure with the rules.

Journalists have taken to social media to decry the new press guidelines.

   

Based on the reading of the rulings, journalists could have credentials revoked. This could have an adverse effect on the public who wants to hold the government accountable.

 

 

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

Minnis to Focus On COVID-19 Hospitalization Care and Continuation of Businesses in National Address Tonight

Prime Minister Hubert Minnis will speak tonight in a national address to the country since re-implementing measures this week, to combat the increasing new virus cases in the country.

Wednesday will be significant as COVID19 cases surge during the third wave of the virus resulting in increasing rates of hospitalizations and deaths.

Nearly 50,000 Bahamian citizens and residents are fully vaccinated against the virus. However, many are still refusing to take the shot as health officials complain that 98.3% of its COVID-19 patients at Princess Margaret Hospital are unvaccinated.

A video went viral over the weekend, showing an overwhelmed hospital as patients lay on an outside corridor as rain poured nearby.

The Prime Minister is expected to discuss plans to assist with the care of people hospitalized with COVID-19, measures to limit further spread of the virus, and give an update on the country’s efforts to secure more vaccines.

The address will also focus on policies to ensure business continues and Bahamians are able to earn a living in a safe and responsible manner as measures are reintroduced.

This follows as pastors express disappointment in measures that limit their church services to one hour and spa owners are disgruntled as the Emergency Order prohibits operation of their businesses.

The address will air at 8pm on local stations.

Minnis: The Bahamas Condemns the Assassins of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse

Prime Minister Hubert Minnis expressed dismay and disturbance at the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse on Wednesday morning.

Minnis, in a statement released by his office, said his government “strongly condemns the actions of the perpetrators.”

“We offer our deepest condolences to the Government and the people of Haiti.”

“We pray for the people of Haiti and for a peaceful resolution to the political crises,” he said.

Minnis added that Caricom has had ongoing discussions on the social and political unrest in Haiti and has since offered assistance to find a “peaceful resolution to the political crises” there.

“I have been in contact with the Honourable Gaston Browne, Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Chairman of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community.”

Minnis assured that embassy staff in Haiti’s capital remains safe as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs monitors the situation.

Why it matters

President Jovenal Moïse was killed by unidentified men clad in black at his private residence in the capital Port-au-Prince.

Interim Prime Minister Claude Jean has called for calm and declared a state of emergency for two weeks.

He called the act, “heinous, inhumane and barbaric.”

Minnis and Jovenel

President Moïse welcomed Prime Minister Minnis to the country in 2018  at the National Palace of the Republic of Haiti where a high-level meeting was held between the two men.

During the meeting, Minnis and Moïse highlighted the need for the creation of economic, commercial and investment opportunities between Haiti and The Bahamas and encouraged closer collaboration between national, regional and international law enforcement institutions, to fight illegal immigration, illicit trafficking in narcotics and the smuggling of migrants.

Minnis Hoping for Smooth Vaccine Rollout

The Minnis administration is pulling all of its resources to ensure a smooth vaccine rollout, as the distribution plan is in its final stages of completion, according to Prime Minister Hubert Minnis.

Minnis in a national address on Sunday said drive-thru sites, mobile units and assistance from the US embassy are being used to ensure Bahamians wanting the vaccine will be vaccinated.

The big picture

The country is expected to receive the first batch of the 100,000 doses of Astra-Zeneca vaccine beginning this month.

The government has also secured a commitment from the Government of India for a small quantity of AstraZeneca vaccines from a WHO/Emergency Use Listing (EUL)-approved manufacturer in India.

What the PM says

“The government continues to work on all fronts to secure additional approved vaccines for the Bahamas,” said Minnis.

“Officials are speaking directly with multiple suppliers to obtain more WHO/EUL approved vaccines.”

Minnis assured that the government will only accept COVID-19 vaccines that are pre-qualified for use by the World Health Organization and approved by stringent regulatory authorities.

He urged all who are eligible to get vaccinated.

“I will take the vaccine,” he said. “I will urge family and friends to take the vaccine.

“By getting vaccinated you will help the country to return to a greater level of normalcy. By getting vaccinated you will also help our economy to recover faster. When a large percentage of Bahamians are vaccinated, we will be able to responsibly open up even more.”

Details of the distribution

  1. Healthcare workers, people over the age of 65, uniformed branch members and frontline workers will be among the first priority groups eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine on New Providence and Grand Bahama.
  2. Critical workers in high-risk settings and other essential service workers will also be included among the first groups.
  3. On the Family Islands, all eligible residents who choose to take the vaccine will be vaccinated at the same time. The schedule will not follow the prioritized group rollout on the islands.
  4. The US Embassy has offered to assist with air transportation to the Family Islands during the vaccine rollout, particularly the smaller islands and cays.
  5. 8 to10 vaccination sites have been identified on New Providence, inclusive of drive-thru sites.
  6. Sites have also already been identified on Grand Bahama and the Family Islands.
  7. Mobile units will be used to safely distribute vaccines to vulnerable populations in their communities; focus will be placed on high-risk populations where COVID-19 has occurred.
  8. Health officials and the National COVID-19 Vaccine Consultative Committee are looking at additional platforms to increase access to and ensure equity of distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine to all communities.
  9. Vaccine appointment software is very near completion and is expected to be rolled out in advance of distribution, for scheduling of appointments digitally.
  10. For those without access to the internet, appointment centers will be set up to provide assistance with making appointments to receive the vaccine.

Minnis Fears a 3rd Wave if Bahamians Travel in Pandemic

Prime Minister Hubert Minnis pleaded with Bahamians not to travel out of the country, as the United States and Europe battle spike in coronavirus cases. Minnis says he fears a third wave of the virus if Bahamians increase their travel.

“As a result of the extraordinary spike in cases in North America and Europe – and the ongoing challenges in the Americas as a whole – as Prime Minister, I advise all Bahamians
not to travel outside of the country at this time unless for an emergency.”

Why it matters

  • The record number of cases in the northern countries like the United States and Europe means there is significant virus transmission there.
  • Traveling to a COVID hotspot could cause you to catch it.
  • These countries have an overwhelmed hospital system which makes it difficult to receive medical treatment.
  • These countries may quickly change their travel policies resulting in border closures.

What PM says?

“It is exceptionally risky to leave the Bahamas at this time.

“Please, I beg and plead with all Bahamians to stay at home, unless it is absolutely necessary to travel overseas.

Minnis acknowledged the reality of COVID-19 fatigue but asked Bahamians to travel to the Family Islands where travel is permitted while following the public health guidelines.

“I ask Bahamians to spend that money in The Bahamas with Bahamian businesses that employ Bahamians. They will have a good time and will help our economy. We should be careful and sensible when it comes to where we travel. We could have a very difficult third wave if we are lax in our behavior and in our travels.

“If you have to go overseas because of an emergency, please wear a mask, maintain physical distancing, avoid large gatherings, and wash your hands thoroughly and often.”

Worth noting

  • COVID-19 cases are spiking across the United States. According to a New York Times database, as of Wednesday, more than 11,439,000 people in the United States were infected, and at least 248,400 died.
  • There is a high risk of infections.

Featured Image: BIS Photos/Yontalay Bowe