By DENISE MAYCOCK
Tribune Freeport Reporter
AS COVID-19 infections soar in Grand Bahama, some residents are blaming Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis for reopening the borders too soon.
To date, there are 59 confirmed cases here on the island, compared with eight recorded in early May. The island had a two month lull in new cases before July 1, when international travel restrictions were lifted.
“It was an irresponsible act of governance for Dr Minnis to allow citizens of The Bahamas to travel into the epicentre of this COVID-19 pandemic, South Florida,” said businessman Brian Seymour. “Today, I am extremely upset because foolish decisions were made on behalf of the Bahamian people.”
Grand Bahama’s proximity to the US, particularly South Florida which is a hotspot, makes it vulnerable to coronavirus infections. The surge of infections re-emerged on July 8 in Grand Bahama with two cases, with an almost daily increase in cases since then. Yesterday the island recorded a staggering 20 cases.
On Sunday, Dr Minnis reimposed tough measures for Grand Bahama, including a 7pm curfew, closure of beaches and parks, and the cessation of travel to the US and domestically.
Mr Seymour, a Grand Bahama businessman, believes the island’s residents are not to be fully blamed for the spread, but rather the nation’s leader.
“The duty of any government that is worth its salt is to preserve the peace, order, and safety if its people. The duty of a doctor is to preserve life and its wellbeing. Given these two metrics, Dr Hubert Minnis has failed miserably,” he said.
“The Bahamas is under emergency orders. It was an irresponsible act of governance for Dr Minnis to allow citizens of the Bahamas to travel into the epicentre of this COVID-19 pandemic, South Florida. It can also be argued that it was medical malpractice to allow Bahamians to go into South Florida for 72 hours, and return without being tested. . .” he stated.
”Dr Minnis, you are responsible and should be rebuked.”
Local activist Joseph Darville also believes it was “a terrible judgment call” to reopen the borders. The outcome was expected, he said.
“The PM hastened too early to open up travel back and forth between The Bahamas and Florida. Florida was into an exponentially severe surge in COVID-19 cases and deaths. In spite of this, in the name of bringing back tourism, he obviously ignored good advice and opened the flood gates. Common sense could easily predict the outcome. Therefore, the draconian measures now again instituted are sensibly warranted.”
Mr Darville added: “The directions and paths originally followed by the PM, obviously advised by his medical team, were the sane and productive manner in which to totally eliminate the virus from our nation. It was a terrible judgment call, not based on medical science, to open up our basically secure borders for COVID-19 to dramatically impact us. In light of the undisciplined nature of many of our citizens, everyone is now put at a serious disadvantage once again. I would say the PM now has no other more effective course to take in order to return the country to late June status.”
According to Rev Glenroy Bethel, the government imposed COVID-19 laws on Bahamians and yet failed to protect its citizens by reopening the borders, knowing the risks. He is threatening to file a writ in the Supreme Court.
“We are going to sue the government and take action against the prime minister, and the MPs in Freeport for allowing the borders to open and for (people) to be affected by COVID-19. The government knew Florida was a hotspot and opened the borders even though the Bahamas, we right next to the hotspot. I can’t see how we could allow the government to get away with this; they are imposing laws on us and failing to protect us. We were fine for 60 days with no reported cases,” he stressed.
Although union activist Lionel Morley agrees Grand Bahama is facing a challenge with COVID-19, he says it sad that some people are politicising the issue.
“It is no surprise… this expected minor uptick,” he said. “Any real leader would reevaluate and reassess things. We don’t quite have a handle on how the uptick came, we think we do because of the borders that we have a spread…”
He thinks Dr Minnis is on the right track. “This leader has been and is on the right track, and while there are critics, some people are still in the political rush and choose to be political over this new reality. And it is sad that is the case,” he said.
Grand Bahama Chamber of Commerce president, Greg Laroda fears the island is going “back to square one.”
“For us for in GB it is not a welcoming position,” he said. “We were just beginning to open back up and get commerce going on the island again, and now it appears we are back to square one, and probably faced with being completely lockdown by Friday,” he said. “I don’t know exactly what his intention is for a complete lockdown. I don’t know if it is the same that Bimini had because I think we are a little bit too big for that… in terms of provisions for food. And, so you can’t have folks in their home for two weeks so I am sure he will look at it and try to make a decision in the best interests of all of us.
While it is not welcomed from a commercial standpoint, Mr Laroda said Bahamians have to appreciate the safety side of it.
“I have seen photos passed around and been in places where I said to myself, ‘these guys are not practicing social distancing and not wearing their mask.’ So, I could understand why he would want to control that type of thing. But we want to see this coronavirus thing behind us sooner rather than later, if it is going to help us, fine,” he said.