By LEANDRA ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
BAMBOO Town MP Renward Wells will be sworn in today as the country’s newest minister of health, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis announced yesterday.
As a result of the move, Dr Minnis said the Ministry of Transport will now fall under the portfolio of Labour Minister Dion Foulkes. He added that Travis Robinson will be reinstated as parliamentary secretary in the Ministry of Tourism and Aviation effective today. Mr Robinson was fired from that post in 2018 after voting against the government’s VAT increase.
Describing the Bamboo Town as “a doer who knows how to get things done,” Dr Minnis yesterday expressed confidence that Mr Wells will perform well in his new role.
“While the medical officials continue to lead the charge in the battle against COVID-19, I have instructed Minister Wells to move aggressively to upgrade our health care infrastructure,” he announced.
“He is also charged with working with public health officials on boosting immunisations and vaccinations for various childhood diseases, some of which have lagged during the COVID-19 pandemic. He will also work with public health officials to improve our readiness for a variety of public health threats including potential pandemics.”
Mr Wells will replace Dr Minnis as health minister who temporarily assumed the position of following the resignation of Dr Duane Sands in early May.
The former health minister resigned for his actions related to six American permanent residents who landed in the country with COVID-19 testing supplies. The group had not been tested prior to their arrival in the country and instead were tested for the disease the next day.
When pressed by reporters on the issue during a press conference a month later, the Killarney MP refused to explain his decision for accepting Dr Sands’ resignation during a pandemic, only saying he wished the Elizabeth MP “well” in his future endeavours.
During yesterday’s national address, Dr Minnis also thanked former COVID-19 taskforce coordinator, Dr Merceline Dahl-Regis for her “outstanding service” to the country after it was revealed last week she was leaving her post. Her departure took effect yesterday.
“Dr Dahl-Regis has put in place strategies, policies and procedures as it relates to managing COVID-19 and is confident in the team that will be led by Chief Medical Officer Dr Pearl McMillan,” he said.
Yesterday, Dr Minnis also announced the establishment of a new Royal Bahamas Police force enforcement unit, which “will coordinate activities to educate and ensure that all Bahamians, residents and visitors are 22 adhering to the enforcement protocols of the Emergency Powers Orders to keep our communities safe.”
The enforcement unit will also monitor individuals in quarantine, beaches and parks and ensure that public is adhering to the COVID-19 orders and that businesses are adhering to the COVID-19 rules.
Dr Minnis also said people found submitting or undertaking false COVID-19 tests can be fined up to $2,000 or can face two years’ imprisonment or both.
“It shall be an offence for a person to submit a falsified result of a COVID-19 diagnostic test or to undergo the test prior to his or her departure from the Bahamas and present the results of the 20 test on his return to the Bahamas as though the test had been carried out in another jurisdiction. Such persons are liable to a fine not exceeding $2,000 or to two years imprisonment or both.”
He also said: “Additionally, where a person knows or reasonably believes that he is infected with the COVID 19 virus and causes another to be exposed or infected that person commits an offence and upon summary conviction is liable to a fine not exceeding $1,000 in respect of each person who has been exposed or infected.’
Airlines and sea vessels can also be fined $500 for permitting passengers entry without a face mask and an approved travel health card.