Saturday, June 3, 2023


Wells’ Driver and Personal Assistant Return Money As Honorarium Backlash Grows

After facing public backlash, Health Minister Renward Wells said he has ordered his driver and personal assistant to return the payments issued to them for working during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a public statement, Wells said $1,158.40 was returned to the government.

Wells said he “made no recommendations as to who should receive an honorarium” but the recommendation was made by a select committee in the Ministry of Health.

Why it matters

Wells’ driver and personal assistant received an honorarium payout of $1158.40 issued for non-front line workers.

News circulated social media last week that the pair received payouts while healthcare workers waited to receive their honorarium payouts of $5000. Some healthcare workers have since ‘called in sick’ at the hospitals, in frustration that they were still awaiting the monies promised last year.

The big story

At the height of the pandemic, the government agreed to provide a $5,000 honorarium to frontline workers who provided care to COVID-19 patients from the onset of COVID, from March 19 to June 18; and a $100,000 life insurance policy if workers experience untimely death while serving.

It was an effort to attract a cadre of healthcare workers during the pandemic.

Families of Dead COVID-19 Healthcare Workers Get Death Benefit Cheques

Two families of deceased COVID-19 health care workers were granted payments today, following recent ‘sickouts’ across healthcare institutions over the disbursements of honorarium payouts.

The families of Nurse Sherrilyn Charlton-Bain and Custodian Marion Burrows-McKinney were presented with cheques, totaling $100,000.

Carlton-Bain and Burrows-McKinney died during the first wave of the pandemic. Charlton-Bain, deployed to the Prison Health Services, passed on October 10 and Burrows-McKinney, deployed at the Princess Margaret Hospital (PMH) died on September 29.

The big story

At the height of the pandemic, the government agreed to provide a $5,000 honorarium to those frontline workers who provided care to COVID-19 patients from the onset of COVID, and a $100,000 life insurance policy if workers experience untimely death while serving.

It was an effort to provide a cadre of healthcare workers during the period March 19–June 18, 2020.

Why it matters

For the past week, healthcare workers in New Providence and Grand Bahama abandoned services and ‘called in sick’ over COVID-19 honorarium payouts. Some health workers said they were frustrated that they were left out of the disbursements of monies, but Minister of Health Renward Wells maintained that the payout was not intended for everyone as some workers did not meet the criteria as established by the Cabinet for payment of the honorarium.

What Wells said today

Wells stated that these challenging times have highlighted the important roles healthcare and frontline workers play.

Wells added, “The government instituted a death benefit to healthcare workers for a limited time to those who may have potentially lost their lives from COVID-19.”

He explained that both healthcare workers qualified for that death benefit, and now the government can pass on what was held in trust for both of them to their families.

“To the family members of Nurse Sherrilyn Charlton-Bain and Mrs. Marion Burrows-McKinney, we know that no monetary value can replace the life of your mother, wife, daughter, sister, aunt or friend.  However, it is hoped that it will provide for a time the necessary funding that would have ordinarily been supplemented by your loved ones’ income.”

Unvaccinated Overwhelm PMH

Dr. Nikkiah Forbes, Director of the Infectious Disease Programme at the Ministry of Health said more than 98% of hospitalizations and deaths at the Princess Margaret Hospital are among unvaccinated people.

Speaking at the latest Ministry of Health’s press conference on Friday, Forbes said the infectious disease is attacking individuals not fully vaccinated from the virus.

“98.3% of the infected have had no vaccination. A smaller percentage had one shot of the AstraZeneca vaccine,” she said.

Forbes added that individuals with just one jab of the vaccine contracted the virus less than 14 days after inoculation.

“Getting vaccinated will protect against hospitalization and death,” she said.

These comments came after Prime Minister Hubert Minnis received criticism from some fractions of society when he suggested that the virus was over for the vaccinated.

Last week, Minnis stated that the vaccinated individuals are now out of the pandemic while the non-vaccinated people are still in the pandemic.

When asked to respond to this claim made by Minnis, Pearl McMillan, Chief Medical Officer at the Ministry of Health said, “He is partly right. More and more studies are coming through to show that those persons who have been vaccinated are less likely to have severe illness, hospitalization and death.”

State of play

Health officials said hospitalizations in this third wave have been much higher than in the second wave.

Officials said the country’s medical institutions experienced a peak in hospitalizations on July 20, which show a record of 92 cases.

Health Minister Renward Wells said, “These excessive numbers have placed our public health system to the test.”

The big picture

One hundred and ten new cases were confirmed on Thursday. This brings the total number of confirmed cases in the country to 13,957, with 1351 active cases.

A 50-year-old woman from New Providence died yesterday, due to the virus. This brings the total number of confirmed COVID-19 deaths to 280 people. Twenty-three deaths remain under investigation.


How Bad Is It? Enough to Retighten Restrictions as COVID-19 Cases Spiral

The government will retighten COVID-19 restrictions as health officials battle the latest swell in new infections.

Health officials confirmed 110 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, which brings the total number of confirmed cases in the country to 13,957.

A fifty-year-old woman from New Providence died on Thurday. This brings the total number of
confirmed COVID-19 deaths to 280. Twenty-three deaths are still being investigated.

Here are the new measures:

  1. Curfew changes on Monday from 10 pm to 5am for New Providence, Grand Bahama, North and South Eleuthera and Harbour Island.
  2. Unvaccinated travelers will require a PCR negative test.
  3. Church services will be reduced to 33% capacity and limited to 1 hour of service.
  4. Political groups are limited to 5 people and must be fully vaccinated.
  5. Weddings are limited to 30 people, excluding the officiant.
  6. Funerals are limited to the outdoors with a maximum of 30 people excluding workers and the officiant.
  7. Restaurants are limited to outdoors and takeaway services.
  8. Spas will be prohibited.
  9. Exercise groups are limited to a maximum of 10 people. There will be no recreational or sporting activities.
  10. Groups congregating on the beaches and parks should be no more than 5 people.

A 4th Wave is Looming. The Bahamas Must Accelerate Vaccination Drive

COVID-19 cases in the country are swelling. The latest statistics from the Ministry of health show 95 new cases, increasing the total number of cases in the country to 13,781, with 1264 active cases.

Saturday’s statistics showed 100 new cases. Thirty-eight new cases were recorded on Sunday and Monday’s statistics showed 81 new cases.

The majority of the cases are concentrated in New Providence, with Grand Bahama, a far second. Abaco, Bimini and Cat Cay, Eleuthera and Exuma are a close tie in new cases.

Health Minister Renward Wells blamed the surging number of cases on the events and gatherings held over the Independent holiday weekend.

“Usually, there’s an uptick in cases about seven to eight days… 14 days out from any sort of major holiday. We have just come through the entire weekend of Independence, so folks would’ve gotten together in groups on beaches and homes, celebrating our independence and obviously we would’ve expected that given the fact that we would’ve had positive cases in the country that there would’ve been an uptick.

“We’re going to be looking over this week, assessing over the data and then seeing where we are and whether we have defined clusters or anything new that is developing.”

The uptick in cases is not unique to the Bahamas. The United States of America is battling cases that have tripled in number due to the Delta strain.

US health officials acknowledged that the country has hit its 4th wave of the virus as deaths and hospitalizations escalate.

While few numbers are among the vaccinated group like the elderly and the immune-compromised, the majority of those stricken with the latest attack of the virus are the unvaccinated group including children.

The director for the Center for Disease Control and Prevention Rochelle Walensky has labeled this latest wave, ‘a pandemic of the unvaccinated.’

Minnis has followed suit, acknowledging that the unvaccinated individuals face the worst casualty in the pandemic as the government “aggressively pursues” more vaccination.

Currently, the government has a limited supply of the AstraZeneca vaccine and has since only offered second dose jabs.

The third tranche of Astra Zeneca is expected to arrive later this month, and Pfizer is expected in August.

If the country is to beat the virus and prevent the 4th wave of COVID-19, citizens must ignore the misinformation about the vaccine, and government must move quickly to mobilize a vaccination drive.

Watson’s Posturing; He’s Entitled to His Own Opinion, But Not Vaccination Facts

Clint Watson, the host of Beyond the Headlines, vehemently resisted recent comments by Prime Minister Hubert Minnis, when he stated that the country is presently in two pandemics–one for vaccinated individuals and another for non-vaccinated individuals.

Minnis was addressing the climb in COVID19 cases in the country, noting that it was worrying as the Bahamas experiences a 3rd wave of the virus.

“One thing the Bahamian populace must understand, we are in two pandemics. The vaccinated individuals are now out of the pandemic. The pandemic is finished for the vaccinated.

“The non-vaccinated are still in the pandemic. Therefore, it is essential for us to aggressively pursue vaccines so that we can vaccinate our populace as quickly and efficiently as possible so that they can move into the vaccinated portion, thus the non-pandemic,” Minnis said.

Watson, during the taping of his show, is taken aback by the comments and is heard telling producers, “Did he say the pandemic is over for the vaccinated? No, no, no. I’m sorry. Control room can you play that sound bite again, please? No, no. I heard wrong.”

With a mocking smile, Watson then goes on to say, “How did he come to that conclusion? …I’m confused.”

Why is Watson confused? The facts about the pandemic are indisputable.

Here’s how Minnis came to that conclusion.

  1. Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky said the virus is targeting people who are unvaccinated.  She said, “This is becoming a pandemic of the unvaccinated” as deaths and hospitalization are among the unvaccinated people.
  2. Fully vaccinated people who may contract the virus are less likely to spread the virus to others as they have less virus in their system compared to unvaccinated people, according to Anthony Fauci, White House chief medical advisor.
  3. USA President Joe Biden, acknowledging that cases of COVID-19 have tripled over recent weeks in the US, stated on Friday, “Look, the only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated.”

Watson, as the host of an opinionated show, is entitled to his own thoughts and feelings. However, he is not entitled to the facts, no matter how much passion he demonstrates.

How is Minnis wrong about the statement he made? Does Watson need to hear PLP ‘experts’ say so before he believes?

Does Watson need to see body counts or hospitalization statistics of the unvaccinated?

Is Watson so politically blinded that anything Minnis says he refuses to believe?

Watson is simply benighted or politically posturing for his audience.

Moultrie Calls Out PM and Abruptly Adjourns the House. Here’s Why

In a surprising move in the House of Assembly today, House Speaker Halson Moultrie suspended the House session, setting a new date for parliamentarians to meet after the clerk tested positive for COVID-19.

But before adjourning the House, he openly rebuked Prime Minister Hubert Minnis and Government Business Leader Renward Wells for permitting the House to meet despite the positive case among staff and the parliament not being sanitized before meeting.

Moultrie said he reached out to both Minnis and Wells to determine if House should still meet today, and determine the measures staff should take, only to receive a message from Minnis saying, “noted.”

Another staffer, who Moultrie said should have been in quarantine, Asharan Lightbourne was “called upon to be here this morning, in breach of the request or the instruction of the speaker that [she] should be in quarantine,” he said.

The big picture

Since the advent of COVID-19, Moultrie has been calling on the government to pass a resolution to meet in hybrid form or virtually to prevent chances of more parliamentarians from contracting the virus. But those calls were not adhered to.

Why it matters

A staff member tested positive for the virus. Though not identified, it is believed to be the chief clerk as he was noticeably absent today. The Speaker described the staffer as the “closest person to him in the House.”

The staffer came to work on Monday and Tuesday showing symptoms of the virus, but returned home early after not feeling well. However, came back to work last week Wednesday when parliamentarians met.

His positive diagnosis was revealed yesterday.

What Moultrie is saying

Moultrie said parliament is in breach of its own order. “This is my final straw when it comes to the disrespect of the speaker. According to the rules, when the behaviour of a member is creating disorder, the speaker is authorized by rule 88, subsection 9 to adjourn the parliament until the circumstance is fixed,” he said.

“I don’t pick fights or wars, but if you want war, you will get a war. If you don’t want a war, don’t start one.”

Referencing Minnis who earlier stated that he read a book on wars, Moultrie continued, “So don’t come in this parliament talking about reading books of war. More than one person in this parliament read books of war.”

State of play

Because of the adjournment by Moultrie, the next session of the House will be May 3 at 10 am.

Govt’ to Secure More Vaccines in the Fight Against COVID-19

Minister of Health Renward Wells assured that the government is working to secure additional vaccines from approved providers, in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

He made the statement on Wednesday, during the Ministry of Health’s COVID-19 Update Press Conference.

Wells noted that through PAHO, the Bahamas scheduled to receive an additional 67,200 vaccines through the COVAX Facility.

Why it matters

The Bahamas has received a total of 53,600 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine. Out of that, 20,000 doses were received as a gift from the Government of India and 33,600 doses were received through the COVAX Facility with the assistance of the PAHO.

“The government continues to work on all fronts to secure additional vaccines from approved providers,” Minister Wells said.

Driving the news

To date, more than 10,000 first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered to Bahamians and residents. Over 1,000 individuals are being vaccinated per day and health care workers are actively working to increase this number, he added.

Vaccines have been administered at centres in New Providence, Grand Bahama and Eleuthera. Additional centres have opened to include a wider range of individuals namely teachers and staff of schools, the physically disabled, those in the hospitality industry and students and athletes studying abroad.

As of Tuesday, there were 26 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19. This brings the total number of confirmed cases in the Bahamas to 9,296. The total number of confirmed COVID-19 deaths now stands at 189.

(BIS Photo/Patrick Hanna)

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.


Boaters Add to COVID-19 Dashboard Increase

Minister of Health Renward Wells clarifying the COVID statistics that recently showed an unexpected jump in COVID-19 cases. Wells said the new cases are a result of infection by yachters.

Why it matters

The statistics released by health officials showed seven new cases on Tuesday. However, by Wednesday, the statistics showed 21 new COVID-19 cases, causing alarm.

What happened

  • 11 of the 21 cases are crew members of a yacht who were in the Bahamas for nearly three weeks.
  • Health Minister Wells said the crew members of the yacht were tested weekly which determined the 11 people were positive for the virus.
  • The asymptomatic cases were quarantined and the systematic cases were isolated. All cases are being monitored by health officials, Wells assured.
  • Wells said, “So the true numbers for the test yesterday as was said by the prime minister is 10.”