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Wednesday, June 23, 2021

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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.

It Gets Worse in Exuma and Eleuthera

Prime Minister Hubert Minnis addressed the House of Assembly on Wednesday morning, bearing bad news. He said Exuma and Eleuthera’s COVID-19 cases are skyrocketing.

As of yesterday, Tuesday 17th,  there were a total of 99 confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Exuma, and on Eleuthera, a total of 143 confirmed cases.

Why it matters

  • The competent authority in recent weeks announced restrictive measures for mainland Exuma, and mainland Eleuthera, due to exponential increases in new cases of COVID-19 on those islands.

What’s happening?

  • Health officials report that from the analysis of the map of cases, the spread is occurring throughout Exuma.
  • From interviews conducted in the community by the health team, some people are still having gatherings, and residents believe this is largely contributing to the spread of COVID-19 on Exuma.
  • A team from the Ministry of Health made up of members of the contact tracing team and the surveillance unit is currently in Exuma to assess the COVID-19 situation.
  • A health team is scheduled to return to Eleuthera next week to complete a follow-up assessment and to determine the impact of the recently imposed restrictive measures on that island.

Minnis Imposes Strict Measures for Exuma Too

Exuma’s COVID-19 cases are spiking, and like Eleuthera, restricted measures will be imposed to contain the spread of the infectious virus, Prime Minister Hubert Minnis announced on Wednesday night.

Why it matters

Thirty new cases of the virus were recorded for the week. As of November 10th, 79 total cases were recorded for the island, 29 are active cases, 2 individuals are hospitalized and one death was recorded due to COVID-19.

What are the new measures for the island?

The cays are excluded.

  • The 24-hour weekend curfew will be implemented beginning Friday 13th from 6 pm to 5 am.
  • During the weekend lockdown, businesses will be closed.
  • Weekday curfew is 6 pm to 5 am beginning Thursday 12th.
  • Businesses are permitted to open during the weekday, but Fishfry, bars, and restaurants connected to bars are not allowed to operate.
  • Domestic travel is prohibited in and out of Exuma.
  • A negative PCR test is required if an individual must travel from Exuma.
  • Grave-side funerals are permitted, only with a limited number of 10 people, excluding the officiant.
  • Weddings are limited to 10 people, excluding the officiant.
  • Repass and receptions are forbidden.
  • Churches can hold virtual services.
  • 10 people allowed in-person church services.
  • No in-person class sessions.

What PM Minnis said

  • Dr. Minnis said the data show that the situation in Exuma needs urgent action, thus officials have increased the nursing team on the island. A team will visit the island to further assess the situation.
  • He said the measures are short notice but they are essential to curtailing the spread on that island

 

All You Need to Know About New Restrictions for NP, Abaco and Eleuthera

Prime Minister Hubert Minnis loosened restrictions for New Providence and Abaco, while tightening measures for Eleuthera.

Why it matters

The number of COVID-19 cases in New Providence and Abaco has slowed and health officials say they are encouraged by the decrease, while cases have heightened in Eleuthera, causing concern as the island battle 117 cases.

Key points

New Providence and Abaco

  • The 24-hour weekend curfew was lifted on New Providence and Abaco, replaced with a 6 pm to 5 am curfew on weekends.
  • Beginning tomorrow, Monday 9th, a new weekday curfew imposed from 9 pm to 5 am  in NP and Abaco. The curfew will be implemented in Grand Bahama on weekdays and weekends.
  • Retail businesses and pharmacies can begin in-store services, Monday to Saturday.
  • Grocery stores can reopen to the public on Saturdays, restocking on Sundays.
  • Arawak Cay can restart outdoor dining Monday to Friday.
  • Hotels can resume in-door dining.
  • Beaches and parks are opened to the public on weekends from 5 am to 6 pm. Groups are still limited to 5 people.

Eleuthera

Excludes Spanish Wells and Harbour Island

  • Effective this week, a 24-hour weekend curfew will begin at 6 pm every Friday to 5 am every Monday.
  • A daily curfew will be imposed from 6 pm to 5 am.
  • Businesses can operate during the week but can not operate on weekends.
  • Bars and restaurants will be closed.
  • Funerals and weddings are restricted to 10 people, excluding officiant; graveside services permitted only; no wedding receptions permitted.
  • No indoor church services allowed.
  • No in-person classes permitted.

Featured image: OPM Communications Unit

5 Key Takeaways From PM Minnis COVID-19 Address

Prime Minister Hubert Minnis appears to be loosening COVID-19 restrictions after three weeks of 24-hour weekly lockdown and changes to the daily curfews.

In a rare appearance at a health conference, he appeared with his health adviser Dr Merceline Dahyl-Regis, implementing new and less restrictive measures, before taking questions from the press.

1. Minnis started on the toll of the virus on everyone and the country.

He highlighted that the pandemic is causing physical, spiritual, emotional, and economical stress. These stresses have been caused by lockdowns and closure of businesses as nearly 25,000 people are without jobs and rely on National Insurance for financial assistance.

2. Tourism hit hard

The tourism industry is the country’s number one industry and remains non-existent as countries around the world, battle with the rising of cases in their country. The United States, which supplies nearly 80% of our tourism market, is struggling as more than 8 million people have had the virus, more than 225,000 have died and thousands are reported each day.

“The major slowdown in global travel continues to devastate our tourism-based economy.”

But the country is expected to welcome tourists without the requirement of a 14-day quarantine, beginning November 1st.

3. Virus will worsen during colder months

Minnis said experts indicated that the next few months will be a “dark winter.” He said the northern hemisphere is likely heading into the worst period of the pandemic with fall already here and winter coming, colder countries face a very challenging winter.

Due to the cold, more people will be inside their homes. Scientists say the virus spreads easier indoors where there is poor ventilation.

4. Expect on-and-off measures

Minnis knows the complaints of some Bahamians that the lockdowns seem to be done halfway and restrictions may not be consistent, but he warned in his speech that we must “get used to the cycles of tightening and loosening restrictions.”

He said the decisions will depend on the lowering and rising of cases in the country.

“Let me be very clear, all indications are that the pandemic will be with us well into next year.

“When cases go up on a particular island, we will have to increase restrictions if necessary.
But if cases are low on other islands, they will remain open, with less restrictions.”

He reminded the public that restrictions are not punishments but simply a public health tool to promote more physical distancing, which can save lives.

5. New Measures

  • Curfew changes take effect October 30th–8 p.m. to 5 a.m in New Providence, Abaco, and Grand Bahama.
  • On Grand Bahama, weddings will now be limited to 10, not including the officiant.
  • On Grand Bahama, funerals will now be limited to 10, at the graveside only, not including the officiant and mortuary workers.
  • On Abaco, food stores may now open on Saturday from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.
  • Following this assessment, a determination will be made on what specific measures may be needed for Eleuthera, Spanish Wells and Harbour Island.

How Street Vendors Fit In Minnis’ Plan After Arrests

In recent times, the streets of the country have become occupied with street vendors, selling bottled water, coconut water, fruits and peanuts, some on sidewalks, and others in the middle of two-lane traffic.

Unemployment, compounded by the increased cost of living, has rapidly accelerated street vending in the country, particularly in New Providence.

On Monday, Prime Minister Hubert Minnis addressed them, promising to review the current licensing and regulatory procedures.  Dr. Minnis said his government wants to enable street vendors to sell their products in safe and secure venues.

He said street vendors play an important role in the country’s economy. “Accordingly, we will be offering a way for enterprising Bahamians to be able to sell their products on the streets of their respective islands,” Dr. Minnis said.

“We want them to be able to do so in a way that does not pose undue dangers to themselves, pedestrians, or the motoring public. We will put in place the standards that ensure that they are able to meet health code requirements and thus not pose any health risk related to COVID-19 or otherwise. The vendors will be trained in these standards as a requirement of their license.”

This comes after some ‘coconut boys’ have been arrested and charged before the courts for violating the order and selling their products during the pandemic.

Regulations implemented by Minnis to limit the increase of street vendors

In May, Dr.Minnis announced plans to put an end to unregulated street vendors.

In the country’s fight to prevent the spread of the virus, Dr. Minnis said the government will create designated locations for vendors.

“This sprawling of vendors that we see today throughout New Providence will no longer be seen nor tolerated,” he said.

These requirements by vendors are necessary for operation:

  • Vendor’s permit
  • Valid I.D. card /driver’s license/passport.
  • Food Handlers Certificate.
  • Letter of inspection from Environmental Health – if selling food.
  • Letter from District Head Quarters of Police Department.
  • A Valid Business Licence.

Who are the ‘coconut boys’?

Economic hardship experienced by these young people has resulted in the creation of a small street business in search of better livelihoods.

Many of the vendors selling coconut water are males between the age of 18 and 25. Many have recounted stories of hardships and accumulating only enough money to cover expenses and care for their families.

  • Jason Williams is an 18-year-old graduate of C.I Gibson who started his own business one year ago, selling coconut juice and jelly to locals and visitors throughout Nassau.  He said he operated the small business to help support his family as he searches for a job. Williams said street vending keeps him focused in a society where young men have turned to violence and gang activities.  photo
  • Marvin Joseph is a 20-year-old man who sells mangoes, coconut water, and coconut jelly on the side of the street. Joseph said life has been hard for him and the job allows him to make enough money to feed his daughter, and pay rent. Joseph said he was evicted from his home and was living with his aunt. 
  • Moreko Mackey is a 19-year-old  street vendor of Harold Road who sells coconut water and meat.

All of the vendors aforementioned were charged before the Magistrates’ Court. Williams was fined $700, Joseph was fined $800 after three violations of the order, and Mackey was released by the Magistrate with a warning. These fines were paid with the assistance of the public.

Minnis softening his approach

The public has criticized Minnis administration’s hard stance against vendors who have won the empathy and support of the public.

On Monday, Dr. Minnis said his government will make available additional funding to the Small Business Development Center for business loans or grants for the street vendors. He said this will allow them to adjust to the current circumstances and to support or expand their business start-ups or expansion.

He said the coconut boys will be given a financial grant, which is a gift from the government, to establish and expand their business

Minnis added that materials needed for the job will also be provided such as coolers and umbrellas to operate on the street.

Attorney Wayne Munroe and activist Khandi Gibson have since called on Dr. Minnis to assist in the expungement of the coconut boys’ criminal records which they said pose a threat to their advancement.

How Dr Minnis Made a Right About Turn and Won the Hearts of the Lockdown Opponents

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?
Dr. Merceline Dahl-Regis at the MOH COVID-19 update

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.

Why PM Minnis Hits Pause on 7-Day Full Lockdown Until Further Notice

The Bahamas is in the midst of a COVID-19 battle, one the country has never experienced.

The deadly virus has tested the government’s ability to balance the economy and health of the nation. Government has made a few unplanned decisions that have rattled public’s confidence in the administration.

The recent 7-day full lockdown with the closure of essential services, is one such decision that has stirred public outrage, which has contributed to a reversal of that order.

Late Tuesday afternoon, Prime Minister Hubert Minnis made adjustments to the New Providence 7-day lockdown. Dr. Minnis announced that food stores, water depots, pharmacies, gas stations and hardware stores will open Wednesday 19th, from 6am to 9pm, until further notice. Food wholesalers and manufacturers are also allowed to open.

He said, “After I spoke Monday night, Bahamians from all walks of life raised concerns with me.

“There is broad understanding of the need to lock down New Providence in order to control and slow the spread of COVID-19; however, it is also clear that families and businesses need more time to prepare.

“I hear you. I understand you and know that in many cases we must make adjustments in the short-term to strengthen in the long run,” Dr. Minnis said.

A public stance of disapproval

Tuesday morning began with demonstrators of Operation Sovereign Bahamas, who met at Windsor Park in preparation to march towards Down Town, Nassau, before they were intercepted by law enforcement officers.

The group of nearly 50 protesters condemned the most recent lockdown as many Bahamians did not properly prepare with food items before its immediate implementation.

Members of Parliament stood with constituents

Minister of National Security and MP for Mt. Moriah Marvin Dames swamped with concerns from constituents, promised to address the competent authority concerning their needs.

In a Facebook post, Dames said he read the complaints  from individuals on the recent lockdown and its effects on their households.

“I am aware of how difficult it has been for most Bahamians and their families.

“One thing is true, we are not perfect beings. But the test of a true man or women is to recognize what is best for himself/herself and for those he/ she loves.

“I have noted all of your concerns and will be addressing those most vital concerns with the Competent Authority,” he said.

In addition, MP for Bain and Grant’s Town Travis Robinson said he spoke to the  Dr. Minnis to address his constituents’ “frustrations and disappointments” with the recent lockdown.

“Your basic needs of food and water were on top of my list during my conversation with him.

“I am pleased that he was very receptive of my conversation with him…I am satisfied with the pending outcome,” Robinson said.

Preparation for impending bad weather

Dr. Minnis said  the lockdown could affect Bahamians’ ability to prepare for a weather system approaching the Bahamas on the weekend.

He said on Tuesday, the Department of Meteorology and the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) met with Cabinet to brief ministers on a weather system which is on a current path to the Bahamas by Sunday.

“This is to allow residents who were unable to secure sufficient food, medicine and water to access essential items, and to make the necessary preparations as we monitor the weather system,” Dr. Minnis said.

A 10-day weather forecast for New Providence. Nassau Weather Center

Dr. Minnis Announces a ‘Complete Lockdown.’ Here’s What It Means?

The Bahamas has had it shares of lockdowns since the rise in coronavirus cases. But this one is different.

Before, Bahamians had access to essential services like grocery stores and pharmacies, while non-essential services remained closed. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays were allotted for shopping only.

Now, a 7-day complete lockdown is in effect for Grand Bahama and New Providence where COVID-19 cases have taken a toll.

What is a complete lockdown?

A  ‘complete lockdown’ or ‘full lockdown,’ as it is sometimes referred, is the requirement by people to remain at home due to risk of the coronavirus to themselves and others, if they move freely.

All grocery stores, water depots, gas stations and private pharmacies are closed. Only public healthcare,  hospitals and private medical facilities are opened for emergencies.  Businesses and commercial activities will be closed.Construction will be permitted.  International shipping, freight forwarders and domestic freight will be permitted to continue, but goods and supplies must be stored.

Anyone required to be on the streets must contact 311 for permission. Violators will be fined.

Why a complete lockdown?

Health indicators on New Providence show a high number of new cases,  increased hospitalizations and increase in deaths.

Prime Minister Hubert Minnis said if further restrictive measures are not taken to control and to slow the spread of COVID-19 on New Providence at this time, it will take a long time to bring the virus under control.

Dr. Minnis said, “The sooner we bring the virus under control the shorter the time will be to return to few restrictive measures. Unfortunately, too many people are not taking the current lockdowns and health measures seriously.

“Some people are gathering in groups in their neighborhoods. Some are going out when unnecessary. Some are notfollowing health guidelines when out in public. Some are going out visiting friends and family.”

Dr. Minnis added that some people are engaging in socials and parties, and said the virus is spreading rapidly because of the failure of many people to adhere to life-saving and preventative measures.

What would people do who depend on the food distribution program?

Recipients of the National Food Distribution Task Force will continue to obtain food from the specified distribution program on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, as previously scheduled.

Only one person, per family is required for pickup of food packages.

The Royal Bahamas Police Force will have lists by zones of all the recipients of the programme who have registered, and will check vehicles to ensure that only one representative per household goes to the specific distribution centre.

Would a complete lockdown guarantee lowered virus cases?

A complete lockdown will allow health officials to evaluate and monitor the spread of COVID-19 on New Providence, and will assist with slowing the spread of the virus.

At the end of the lockdown period, which is August 25th, officials will assess the data to help inform the way forward, and will report on the impact of the lockdown.

When Lockdown Fatigue Sets In

Thousands of Bahamians tuned in to Prime Minister Hubert Minnis’ national address on Monday evening, anticipating a complete lockdown of the country.

And he delivered.

In his national address, Dr. Minnis announced that New Providence would completely shutdown for 7 days, including grocery stores, water depots and private pharmacies.

A complete shutdown is a first for the country as it battles exponential increases in COVID-19 cases. As of Monday, the Ministry of Health confirms 14 additional confirmed cases of COVID-19. This brings the total number of confirmed cases to 1329.

  • 1116  cases are active
  • 191 are recovered cases
  • 19 COVID-19 deaths

When Dr. Minnis first announced that he would address the nation on Monday at 8pm, hundreds of Bahamians headed to grocery stores, where lines meandered shopping plazas, anticipating that Dr. Minnis would announce a complete lockdown. Although not a 2-week lockdown as rumoured, the 7-day lockdown was met with displeasure.

PM’s announcement met with opposition from the public

Social media users took to social media to express their displeasure with the decision to implement a 7-day full lockdown of Grand Bahama and New Providence.

Many posters voiced their opposition on the Facebook page of the Office of the Prime Minister.

Adam Russell called the actions of the Dr. Minnis, “inhumane, heartless and compassionless.” He asked how citizens are to get access to food and medicine. “How are people suppose to feed their babies? How are people able to get medicine?…This ill thought decision will have far greater impact than the COVID-19 virus,” he said.

A user identified as Quietstorm Miller, said Dr. Minnis has shown Bahamians little respect. “Respect is due where respect is given and right now no respect or compassion is been shown to the people in this country with all this foolishness. We need an early election.”

Julie D’Arville said, “For the first time in my life. I feel unsafe to be living in Nassau. No grocery stores. Things will not end well. Praying for the poor. 311 will be busy for the entire 7 days.”

Denise Knowles pleaded with Dr. Minnis to open the grocery stores and asked for Minnis to delay the lockdown to Saturday.

“Mr. PM, there are families out there that don’t have any food and national food centers take a while for the information to process. Sir, I plead open the food stores and water depot so people could at least get food, water and start the lockdown on Saturday. Have mercy on the people and show some love,” Knowles said.

A call to march

Users of social media have used the platform to establish a march in defiance of the newly implemented 7-day full lockdown.

Activists on Facebook have scheduled a march for Bay Street, Nassau, after meeting at Windsor Park at 10am on Tuesday.

The poster of the flyer encouraged marchers to leave home in groups to prevent arrest and practice social distancing upon arrival at the park. He encouraged, “Less talking. Time to stand for something. And remember that protesting is not illegal, its a right.”

Image may contain: one or more people, text that says 'AUGUST 18TH 2020 MARCH ON BAY STREET กูทbดน 10:00 PEOPLE OF THE BAHAMAS MEET AT WINDSOR PARK EAST STREET'