By TANYA SMITH-CARTWRIGHT
BISHOP Walter Hanchell of Great Commission Ministries said he sent an email to Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis asking him to open New Providence up so people can get food and other necessities.
On Monday night during a national address, Dr Minnis put New Providence on an immediate full lockdown, closing down food stores, water depots and private pharmacies for seven days.
The country had been under a two week lockdown with limited shopping days that was set to expire on Wednesday when he made the announcement.
Many have decried the lack of notice from the government.
“A lot of people called us who were stuck with no food in their houses with no food for them nor their children,” Bishop Hanchell said. “They had no warning and it’s very disheartening. We are out delivering food right now as I speak. We already had permission. We do this every day.
“I haven’t checked yet to see if the prime minister responded to my email, but I asked him to open up the country so the people can get food and other items that they need. I feel he will respond positively because the people are really suffering and hurting. The lockdown came as a surprise and shock … no warning and no notice. There were people who came home from work yesterday (Monday) late, who didn’t have a chance to go to the food store.”
As he canvassed the community delivering food, many people thanked the bishop for the rations. Bishop Hanchell acknowledged the country’s national food programme, but he feels some of the money spent on it could go in a different direction.
“I heard the prime minister saying that the food programme is costing the government $1 million a week,” Bishop Hanchell continued. “Well I think the government needs to use half of that and put it into rental assistance because there are a whole lot of people out there being evicted because they cannot pay their rent.
“Landlords have bills too and some of them have not received rent from their tenants in up to five months and have to put them out.”
Dr Minnis said the National Food Distribution Programme is one of the largest and most unprecedented programmes in the country’s history. He said it is one of the largest ever public/private social care initiatives in the history of The Bahamas, utilising a caring network of faith-based institutions and NGOs.
To register for the national food distribution program, log on to www.rapidbahamas.com.