Tuesday, April 13, 2021


St Vincent Hit with 2nd Explosive Event–Power Cuts and Water Outages

The conditions in St Vincent appear to have worsened as authorities report a second explosive event, resulting in power cuts and water outages in La Soufriere.

Locals recalled a rumbling sound and heavy ashfall on the Caribbean Island after the initial explosion on Friday.

Why it matters

Pictures on social media show towering plumes of gas and volcanic matter billowing in the sky as heavy grey ash settle in the surrounding areas.

Thousands of people were forced to evacuate the island with suitcases in hand, fleeing the island for safety after it was rocked with eruptions at La Soufriere volcano.

Cruise ships were summoned to the island to assist the evacuees in escaping the island. Evacuees will need to be vaccinated to board the cruise ships.

The big picture

La Soufriere last erupted in 1979. However, in December, scientists warned that the volcano had become more active than in years prior, with tremors, gas emissions, the formation of a new volcanic dome, and changes to the Crater Lake.

The Bahamas’ response

As the Caribbean seeks to assist the evacuees, Prime Minister Hubert Minnis has offered the Bahamas’ support to the Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines Dr. Hon. Ralph Gonsalves.

A press statement from the Office of the Prime Minister, Minnis states, “Prime Minister Minnis offered the support of the people and Government of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas to the Government and people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, as a result of the ongoing eruptions at La Soufriere volcano.

“Prime Minister Gonsalves noted that he is grateful for the support of regional leaders.

“Prime Minister Minnis recalled the support of the Caribbean Community during Hurricane Dorian. He expressed full solidarity with the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines during this difficult time.

“Prime Minister Minnis also spoke with Hon. Mia Mottley Prime Minister of Barbados. Ash clouds from the eruptions have drifted over Barbados.

Minnis said he will stay in touch with the leaders of these fellow Caribbean countries during this crisis in order to provide any assistance that may be needed.


Minnis Proposes $50,000 Lots In Western NP for Young Bahamians

Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Hubert Minnis tabled a resolution for the development of an upscale community in western New Providence that will offer lots for $40,000-$50,000 to 18-45-year-olds.

The development is part of the government’s effort to increase access to affordable housing and prioritize and support young Bahamians, Minnis said on Wednesday while tabling the resolution in the House of Assembly.

“When we came into office, we made a commitment that every Bahamian would have the opportunity to participate in what we then termed the Bahamian Dream,” said Minnis.

The details

  • The lots are valued at $150,000 each but will be available for purchase at a cost of $50,000 for multi-family lots, and $40,000 for single-family lots.
  • The first area identified consists of 83-acres in the vicinity of the Baha Mar resort and will incorporate walking paths, a community center and a swimming pool.
  • To maintain low costs for aspiring homeowners, the government will grant customs duties waivers on all building materials and appliances and stamp tax, and real property tax for a minimum of two-years post-construction.
  • Landowners will also be able to purchase pre-approved architectural designs at a cost of $1,000.
  • Construction must be completed within a two-year timeframe to ensure timely development of the community.
  • The government has identified two additional parcels of land in Western New Providence, areas in Southern Eleuthera, Exuma, and future development plans throughout the Family Islands.
  • More details of the phased affordable housing plan will be provided in the upcoming Budget Debate.

Rollout of COVID-19 Vaccination Campaign to Begin on Wednesday

The distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine in the Bahamas will begin on Wednesday on New Providence and Grand Bahama, the National COVID-19 Vaccine Consultative Committee announced today.

Individuals eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in this first phase include:

  • healthcare workers in the public sector, and private sector healthcare workers participating in the vaccination rollout;
  • residents and staff of eldercare homes and non-ambulatory residents registered in the public health system; and
  • staff of the uniformed branches (Royal Bahamas Defence Force, the Royal Bahamas Police Force, Bahamas Department of Corrections, Bahamas Customs and the Department of Immigration).

Appointments are not required for residents and staff of eldercare homes and non-ambulatory residents, who will be vaccinated by COVID-19 Vaccine Mobile Units.

The appointment system will go live on Tuesday morning, for healthcare workers and uniformed staff members beginning with the Royal Bahamas Defence Force, on New Providence and Grand Bahama.

Eligible healthcare workers and uniformed branch staff will be informed within their respective institutions as to how to make their appointments.

All eligible vaccine candidates in this first phase will be required to present an ID code generated by the appointment system and valid government-issued identification at the vaccination site.

Starting Wednesday, vaccinations will be administered at public health institutions, including the Princess Margaret Hospital and the Rand Memorial Hospital, and Doctors Hospital, and the vaccination site at Loyola Hall on New Providence for Community Health providers.

Those required for the continuity of Government, including Government officials, will be vaccinated during this initial effort.

A pilot of the vaccination process was conducted on Sunday at Loyola Hall, Gladstone Road to ensure a smooth rollout.

A group of 110 individuals took part in Sunday’s pilot. The group consisted of healthcare workers, staff of the uniformed branches and volunteers working on the vaccination campaign, including data entry clerks, vaccinators, medical observers and other volunteers.

Prime Minister Hubert Minnis receives the jab on Sunday.
Mrs. Patricia Minnis joins Dr Minnis in receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Prime Minister Hubert Minnis, Mrs. Patricia and Minister of Health Hon. Renward Wells also received the vaccine on Sunday.

As the COVID-19 vaccination program progresses, members of the public will be notified in advance of eligibility to make their appointments to receive the vaccine.

More information will be provided as it relates to the rollout in the Family Islands in short order.

The Bahamas is expected to receive an additional 33,600 COVID-19 vaccine doses before the end of March through the COVAX Facility. A further tranche of approximately 66,000 vaccines is expected to arrive by the end of May.

The government continues to work on all fronts to secure additional safe vaccines from approved providers.

Nurse Becomes First to Receive COVID-19 Vaccine

The first COVID-19 vaccination in the Bahamas took place Sunday morning.

The first person to receive a dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine was a healthcare worker, Public Health Nurse, Sister Ruth Bastian.

Nurse Bastian received the jab at the Loyola Hall in Gladstone Road. Bastian said she was pleased to demonstrate her confidence in the safety of the vaccine and encouraged others to take the vaccine when it’s their turn.

This signals the beginning of the Bahamas’ vaccine rollout.

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Dr Merceline Dahl-Regis receives a jab of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Public Health Advisor Dr. Merceline Dahl-Regis also received the vaccine.

Last week, India, a manufacturer of the AstraZeneca vaccine, donated 20,000 doses to the Bahamas as it did to other Caribbean countries.

Prime Minister Hubert Minnis and his wife Patricia will receive the first jab at 2:45 pm today, as well.

Following concerns by some European Countries in regard to blood clots caused by the particular vaccine in a small group of people,  health officials in the Bahamas have put fears to rest, assuring that the vaccines received by the Bahamas on Wednesday,  were different from the batch reportedly used in the affected countries, and have met all of the requirements and standards set by the World Health Organization.

The Arrival of 20,000 Doses of AstraZeneca Vaccine: A Light at the End of the Tunnel

The 20,000 vaccine doses donated to the Bahamas by India, arrived on Wednesday morning.

Prime Minister Hubert Minnis, Minister of Health Renward Wells and other officials were on hand at the Lynden Pindling International Airport to receive the batch of Astra Zeneca vaccines, the first to arrive in the country.

Minnis hailed the much-anticipated cargo as “a light at the end of the tunnel.”

He said this shipment will assist the Bahamas in getting back to a sense of normalcy after nearly one year of lockdowns and curfews.

Minnis said Junkanooers have contacted him, eager to receive the vaccine. “Junkanooers, get ready for Christmas. Let’s rock and roll.”

He assured the public that the vaccination rollout will commence as soon as next week, as he is in constant consultation with his advisor Dr Merceline Dahl-Regis and Chief Medical Officer Pearl McMillan, members of the National COVID-19 Vaccine Consultative Committee.

“As the day approach, they will keep you updated,” he said. “Everything will be totally transparent.”

Minnis said this week will be a trial run. And next week, the inoculation process will begin. He also noted that the IT program has already been completed in preparation for the digital registration of individuals wanting to take the vaccine.


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.

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.

Parliamentarians to Debate May 23 Emergency Order Extension as Country Awaits Vaccine

Parliamentarians will debate the continuation of the Emergency Order when they return to the House of Assembly on Wednesday.

Prime Minister Hubert Minnis sought to extend the COVID-19 Emergency Order to May 23, as he presented a resolution to parliamentarians when they returned to the House of Assembly for the new year on Monday.

The big picture

The emergency order was extended three times since the onset of the coronavirus. In November of 2020, parliamentarians voted and passed the resolution to again extend the public state of emergency to January 31, 2021.

Now that this order is near expiration, and the pandemic rages on around the world, Minnis is seeking the order’s extension once again.

Why it matters

The Bahamas has seen the number of COVID-19 cases lowered, over recent months, officials fear that cases could rise as people become relaxed.

The country still has not accessed the COVID-19 vaccines but it is expected to be available in the first quarter of the year, which will guarantee a safer return to normalcy and a full reopening of the country.

What PM Minnis, as the competent authority, says

In defense of the extension to May 23, Minnis said if the Bahamian people become too relaxed, the country may lose control in the handling of the infectious disease.

“… yes we are doing well, however, we are letting our guards down, which could have devastating effects on our country moving forward as we look around and see the number of funerals in violation of the order,” Dr. Minnis said.

“There are a number of memorials in violation of the order and even Junkanoo groups engaging in rush outs in violation of the order. I want to remind the public that we should all be vigilant because it only takes one individual to become infected and the virus can have catastrophic and devastating effects on our society placing us in a similar position as seen in the north.

“I recognize how individuals feel especially about their loved ones and want to participate in funeral activities and I recognize that in many instances this may sadden families and hurt families, but I want to remind individuals that I myself experienced this when my brother had passed away during Hurricane Dorian and though both myself and my family were grieving and hurt, we kept that internally because we felt that the country came first.”

Minnis acknowledged the pain that many would have experienced because of the lockdowns and curfews, but he said they were not intentional as his objective is to save lives and the country.

Parliamentarians attended the Annual Parliamentary Church Service, Monday morning, after meeting in the House of Assembly. Prime Minister Hubert Minnis is pictured centre, following his presentation of a resolution to extend the emergency order.  (BIS Photos/Ulric Woodside)

London Creek Bridge Opens in Central Andros

London Creek Bridge in Central Andros was officially opened today by Prime Minister Hubert Minnis.

The natural creek was negatively impacted by the construction of roads across it, but today, the completion of a new bridge prevents blockage of the London creek.

Why it matters

  • The London Creek project is important for the surrounding area as it will help to regenerate the natural flora and fauna of the creek system.
  • This will provide a catalyst for ecotourism in Andros by providing residents and visitors with the opportunity to experience the beauty of the natural creeks’ ecosystems.

The details

  • A contract was signed in June 2019, with SJK Engineering & Construction, for the construction of the culverts.
  • The contract was in the amount of $2,126,916.51.
  • The installation of culverts increases the water flow and allow small crafts to pass under the road with headroom of 7 to 8 feet at a high water level.
  • There is a vehicle guardrail on the approaches to the structure and line markings and signs.