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SHAMBOLIC: PM forced into dramatic U-turn after public fury at ‘no notice’ lockdown

Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis and people protesting near Windsor Park yesterday, angry at the lack of notice given for New Providence’s seven-day lockdown.

Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis and people protesting near Windsor Park yesterday, angry at the lack of notice given for New Providence’s seven-day lockdown.

• Minnis said he ‘listened’ to concerns but no answer why no preparation time

• Tropical Storm heading our way part of the reason stores now okay to reopen

By RASHAD ROLLE

Tribune Senior Reporter

rrolle@tribunemedia.net

LESS than 24 hours after announcing a seven-day immediate lockdown for New Providence, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis reversed the harsh measures yesterday afternoon and allowed food stores, pharmacies, water depots, gas stations and hardware stores to open from 6am to 9pm beginning today.

The announcement came in a statement from the Office of the Prime Minister after the government was roundly criticised by residents, the opposition and non-profit organisations and after he faced pressure from colleagues in government following a decision that left many without enough food and water in their homes.

Dr Minnis’ statement said the reversal came after Cabinet was briefed by weather officials on a storm that may impact the country and after residents raised concerns with him. He conceded residents and businesses need more time to prepare for such a lockdown.

His statement came shortly after Susan Larson, head of the National Food Distribution Task Force, said the group hoped the abrupt decision to close food stores would be revisited.

His statement said: “In the past few weeks there has been a disturbing rise in COVID-19 cases in New Providence.

“Sadly, additional deaths have been confirmed and our hospital system is stretched to capacity. In coordination with our public health team and through conversations with community stakeholders, it was made clear that the only way to beat back this deadly virus would be to extend lockdown provisions with more restrictions.

“On Monday 17 August, I made the announcement of increased restrictions for New Providence with immediate effect in order to save lives.

“My first priority is always to protect the health and safety of every Bahamian. However, after I spoke Monday night, Bahamians from all walks of life raised concerns with me.

“From these discussions two things are clear: 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.”

He also said: “Earlier today the Cabinet was briefed by officials of the Department of Meteorology and the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) who are closely monitoring a weather system which on its current path may affect The Bahamas by Sunday.

“Given the feedback from community stakeholders and the threat of a weather system that is developing, we are making adjustments to the New Providence lockdown.

“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.

“Starting tomorrow, Wednesday August 19, grocery stores, pharmacies, water depots, gas stations and hardware stores will be allowed to open from 6am to 9pm, until further notice. Food wholesalers and manufacturers will also be allowed to operate during this period.

“The National Insurance Board will resume cheque distributions on Wednesday 19 August at the National Stadium.

“I will provide additional details as it relates to the lockdown for New Providence when I address the nation later this week. NEMA is expected to brief the public on the weather system on Wednesday.

“Your best interests guide my decisions. These are difficult times for our country.

“As you shop for essential items and make preparations, please abide by the public health guidelines. Stay physically distant. Wear your masks. Wash or sanitise your hands regularly.

“We will beat this second wave by working together. And, as your prime minister, I will always listen and make decisions taking your needs, thoughts and feedback into consideration.”

Up to press time last night, an Emergency Powers Order giving effect to the new rules was not released to the public.

Attorney General Carl Bethel told The Tribune earlier yesterday: “Basically the announced lockdown continues with a few adjustments to allow for necessary hurricane provisioning or preparations. We are tweaking the order now.”

National Security Minister Marvin Dames was among the parliamentarians who took to social media to comment on the complaints of his constituents. He said on Facebook that he has written the competent authority to express “the most vital” concerns of them.

Bain and Grants Town MP Travis Robinson also foreshadowed the prime minister’s announcement reversing his decision in a Facebook post.

Last night, Mr Robinson told The Tribune he does not believe a full lockdown should be attempted again in the near future.

“When we look at the culture of the Bahamian people, particularly inner city areas, you’d find that most households are ones that shop every two to three days and then in certain areas in the inner cities they live day by day, they find food on the daily basis to survive,” he said. “You would not ordinarily find an average Bahamian household that has four days or up to seven days or more with groceries that can sustain them. “Because of that culture and behavioural pattern, I don’t know that a complete lockdown, which was suspended, will be feasible in the near future.”

He said his constituency Facebook page received over 300 messages and he got “over 50 phone calls and tons of WhatsApp messages from concerned residents.”

“I’m still trying to filter through and respond to them all,” he said. “It’s been overwhelming in terms of people from my community that have reached out to me.”

He added: “I am thankful that (the prime minister) was humble enough to hear the concerns of the vast majority of Bahamian people, particularly those who live in areas like mine, Bain Town and Centrerville, the two most underprivileged communities in New Providence. This is perhaps one of the toughest decisions he’s had to make in his time as prime minister but I was happy he heard the voices of the people and pivoted as necessary.

“Leadership is about making tough decisions but also having the compassion and understanding to make adjustments where necessary when you have to. He is by all estimation someone who has been faced with tons and tons of issues: Dorian, to this pandemic, to the economic fallout that will be post this pandemic and even right now. He did what was in the best interest of the country.”

Comments

ohdrap4 2 years, 1 month ago

It was a "keep ya corned beef" moment.

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moncurcool 2 years, 1 month ago

Could this be a call out to us that now is the time for us to seriously transform the inner city in New Providence? Could it be time to stop the photo ops of handouts and bring true transformation so households in the inner city can adequately provide for themselves? Why can't we make sure one person form every inner city household has adequate skills and one adequate income provider?

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moncurcool 2 years, 1 month ago

What if each year we seek to get a piece done? Could it get done? Our challenge as a country is we try to do too many things at one time and get nothing done.

When Ingraham came to power in 1992 he focused. Got tourism back up. then worked on electrfiying the country, then roads. You see the result. Pindling, in 68 worked on nib(good concept though used a government slush fund now); then middle class.

What if the government work on Centreville one year, then Bain town, then Grants town. What if they develop one family island one year, then another the next? It could be done, if we focus.

I'm just tired of the complaining and into offering ideas and solutions now.

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trueBahamian 2 years, 1 month ago

It would be good for this to happen. The question is how will this be done? I believe that if we improve education in this country, you give everyone a fighting chance. If you improve the communities, you give them hope. If you add a decent healthcare system to this, you strengthen them.

I would like to see true change within this country. If every person can have a dream and are given a chance to work on that dream, we can build a better nation.

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tell_it_like_it_is 2 years, 1 month ago

Either the PM is out of touch or he just doesn't care about the plight of the average Bahamian. Life is about balance. You can't just have ad hoc, knee-jerk reactions in a pandemic. You need to have a carefully thought out plans to address most contingencies after talking with all the relevant stakeholders. It's been at least 6 months now since the start of this pandemic here, yet a carefully thought out plan remains to be seen. The government still remains reactionary rather than proactive.
One would think that even pre-schooler would know that citizens need time to prepare for a lockdown. SMH

No citizen should have to pray for a storm to come so it can be used as an excuse to ease measures, when common sense decisions should have been made in the first place. 🤦‍♂️

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licks2 2 years, 1 month ago

Stupidity city as usual. . .site of retards in reasoning skills!! I am wasting time with yinna. . .

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avidreader 2 years, 1 month ago

All this talk about a storm coming is hot breeze and is being used to provide wiggle room around this reversal of position. The very last thing that we need is a storm of any description or category. The consequences of the passage of any type of severe weather system over or near to New Providence would add to the enormous problems facing the general public at present.

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ThisIsOurs 2 years, 1 month ago

"Deputy Director of the Department of Meteorology Basil Dean told The Tribune on Tuesday that while officials are closely monitoring the two disturbances, they do not see the systems posing a major threat to The Bahamas at this time."

Given this statement and while weather is unpredictable I can't see weather officials rushing to the PM'S office with a desperate request to open the country because a Read my stotm was headed our way

Something else prompted him to reverse course, probably hurricane Symonette and DAguilar

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tribanon 2 years, 1 month ago

Why has Minnis not resigned? Doesn't this oaf have an iota of integrity? It's readily apparent the Bahamian people have zero confidence and trust in anything he says or does. And why should they? Time and time again he has proven himself to be directionless, mentally unhinged in a most dangerous way, and totally unfit by every other measure to be PM. Why does he persist in refusing to do the only honourable thing he can now possibly do for the Bahamas and the Bahamian people - RESIGN!

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ThisIsOurs 2 years, 1 month ago

Why would you increase the hospitalizations to include people who are already in hospital? Hospitalization would imply that the person is in critical condition due to COVID complications. But if someone is on male medical for a broken leg, is asymptomatic for COVID, why include them in hospitalizations? It's now clear to me that the spigot is being manipulated to gush numbers out or slow them down based on the position they want to push at the time

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proudloudandfnm 2 years, 1 month ago

Who says they're doing that?

Is this another facebook conspiracy theory?

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ThisIsOurs 2 years, 1 month ago

well theres clear evidence right here. No fb conspiracy theory. One day they suddenly lump in a bunch of people who were already in hospital, didn't mention that's what they did just reported this outrageously inflated number. If you don't see the intent there... let's say it was reasonable to inflate the number. If I were doing the reporting the first thing Id say is when they see this number they're going to panic, let's put out a statement to explain it so we don't unduly alarm the public...crickets

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ohdrap4 2 years, 1 month ago

information was released by govt agency.

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John 2 years, 1 month ago

Well at least the weather is cooperating with Minnis in his decision to reverse the 7 day lockdown. It was totally inhumane and UnGodly to try to pick a people down without food and water or medicine. And to restart after a false start will be even more difficult. The lines at the food stores are evidence of that. And also the fact that police had to be called as people are now panicking and growing rowdy. The corundum is YES, the Corona numbers are increasing, and YES the Corona deaths are increasing, but the people are growing wary, many have had their funds run out, government says likewise and the economy is in shambles. So you still want Minnis job.

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Honestman 2 years, 1 month ago

We don't need a week long total lock down. It's not shopping and limited commercial activity that's causing the spread - it's more likely a combination of reckless / ignorant attitudes towards social distancing, people having to queue for hours on end for NIB payments and poor social conditions in over the hill communities. Keep the shops and businesses open Monday to Friday, deal with the NIB issue and have the police come down hard on individuals that are caught at house parties and other illegal gatherings. The numbers will then go down.

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Baha10 2 years, 1 month ago

Hate to say it, but we have all been “played” by a very savvy Politician, as he “knew” at 8pm Monday that there was a Storm traveling towards us, he “knew” the number of COVID Cases would be extraordinarily high the next day and he also “knew” that the death toll was about to increase ... so he implemented an “immediate” FULL LOCK DOWN again “knowing” full well there would be outrage and resistance, yet again “knowing” full well that he could ease and reverse ... but in so doing he had shielded himself from the consequences that he already “knew” are going to follow, but now can always maintain “he tried to save us” ... alas “the people” did not want saving ... allowing him to resign or lose the next Election with a clear conscience ... allowing us to also suffer the consequences to whatever the alternative is to his Leadership ... if there is even an alternative ,,, like I said, “very” savvy Politician!

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Honestman 2 years, 1 month ago

I think you are over thinking this.

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ThisIsOurs 2 years, 1 month ago

definitely. too much thought went into that plan. We've no evidence of any thinking to date

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proudloudandfnm 2 years, 1 month ago

I know one thing. Bahamians need to learn HOW TO WEAR A MASK!

Hanging off your chin is wrong, might as well not wear one at all....

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bogart 2 years, 1 month ago

The MP Representative for the inner city area for the last number of years by now shouldda done know with his business knowledge that the increased profusion, of the gambling web shops operate for profits. The business extracts more money from wide inner city areas for few family owners whether from online or going into outlet by wide inner city population.. Mr. Robinson should realize why his constituents have difficulty in accumulating funds to pay BEC light bill, buy fridge etc and better chance of uplifting themselves and family. The far reaching impact of the gambling extraction of more money the profits for few owners than it puts back is telling.

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ohdrap4 2 years, 1 month ago

Are you saying all residents there are gamblers? It is disgusting that the innocent pay for the guilty. This is a stupid argument.

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bogart 2 years, 1 month ago

....er...apologies.....among his 'constituents' in inner city with profusion of number houses web shops and online gambling ordinarily understood... should not include underage boys, underage girls, incapicated elderlyunable to do so, babies, persons who just have funds , number of persons etc who do not gamble.

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TalRussell 2 years, 1 month ago

The couple hotels which remained opened are now being forced into shutting their doors after their only paying guests were the locals and Mr.Theodore Minnis, 'em just killed that business when he issued a stern warning to the few locals who have booked themselves into hotels and having the time of their life.
What manner of a loose wrecking ball of a prime minister would speak chase away the last and only paying hotel guests?
Just couldn't make this stuff up. Just couldn't. Nod Once for Yeah, em walks around a Castro familiarity authoritarian hardon business owners, Twice for No?

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BONEFISH 2 years, 1 month ago

An arbitrary decision made without no input or insight.Yesterday was utter chaos.

Persons were blindsided. A diabetic lady was in tears on the radio when she spoke about getting her prescription.A pensioner who needed to get his check to buy groceries.Close the gas stations.An essential worker said without gas to put in his car, how would they get to work.A care -giver who could not get through to Cov-19 number 311.Her client needed to have catheters and intravenous tubes changed.

Then you have persons who made excuses for this decision.Somebody made this comment on a radio show why Bahamians were not ready.Excuse me, not everybody has a stock pile of groceries,water and medicine in their home.There are persons on this island who have not worked since March.You have an increase in homeless on this island.

These decisions are creating uncertainty and panic.Somebody called Juan McCartney from a next Caribbean country and asked him about the chaos on New Providence yesterday.My,my.

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