By DENISE MAYCOCK
Tribune Staff Reporter
GRAND Bahamians rushed out to grocery stores yesterday morning just after Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis announced a two-week lockdown starting this week in response to the virulent spread of COVID-19 infections on the island.
There were long queues at Cost Right, Solomon’s Lucaya, Sawyers Fresh Market, and Express Food Mart, where people were panic buying, stocking up on food, and other essential provisions for the next 14 days.
“It’s crazy, I came out here 10am and met a long line of people, was given a number and got inside around a little before noon,” said Patrick, a customer at Cost Right.
It took about an hour and a half to two hours for people to get inside to shop for essential items, he said.
Shoppers were purchasing water, breadbasket items, and toiletries.
Jackie Russell believes that the lockdown is necessary and said she was pleased that the government is assisting those who need food.
“I support the PM 100 percent and people must follow the protocols put in place, such as social distancing, wearing masks, and hand washing,” she said.
Ms Russell was very disappointed that so many Grand Bahamian travelled abroad once the borders reopened earlier this month.
“The PM said that travel only if you have to for emergency… and they went over there to Florida and brought it back, and now they giving it to their families. Some are walking around and don’t know they have it.”
Those persons, she said, should have quarantined upon return.
Grand Bahama has been classified as the new hotspot for COVID-19 infections after recording some 20 new confirmed cases on Monday alone. The lockdown will commence on Thursday.
Additionally, there is a 7pm to 5am daily curfew, and all domestic and international travel from Grand Bahama has been discontinued.
Resident Billy Ferguson says while it is a setback for the island, she supports the two-week lockdown to stop community spread.
“This is actually the last thing we need here in Grand Bahama. Yes, I know the storm was 10 months ago and for people like myself who lost everything, this is indeed a major setback. Keep in mind, I do see it as necessary to close the borders again, but I honestly wish we didn’t have to do it,” she said.
Ms Ferguson is not at all surprised that Grand Bahama is now a virus hotspot. “The minute the border opened a lot of Grand Bahamians decided to go to the US, in particular to Florida, where they know…there are so many cases. It is just so disappointing that whatever was so urgent for them to have to go for and bring it (the virus) back here.”
She noted that things will be tough economically for the island but she is hopeful that it will get better.
“Some of us are going to feel the pinch of the island lockdown because we were just now starting to get ourselves back to some normalcy. But I think it is for the best for us and will cause the cases not to rise if we are not moving about so much.”
Pastor Eddie Victor says the lockdown is “absolutely necessary,” as the disease is very contagious and deadly.
“Based on the recent severe increase in coronavirus cases in Grand Bahama in less than two weeks, it is clear that we have a major spread taking place in Grand Bahama,” he said.
He said that a friend of his in South Florida who is in the medical supply business, had 13 members of his family infected, including his wife, mother, and father. Despite all the medical treatments administered, intubation, blood plasma with the antibodies, and all the latest equipment, the mother passed away last Thursday.
“What I see is that we will be dealing with this virus for the next several months. We need to adhere to all the recommended protocols. We must become very conscious of others, look out for the elderly, and those who may have underlying health conditions and, of course, protect ourselves,” said Pastor Victor.
Former Bahamian ambassador, Forrester Carroll says to get a handle on infections, a lockdown is needed.
“GB will have to suffer the shutdown, and as much as I hate it, I think it is necessary; we have to bear the shutdown to get it under control,” he said.
Mr Carroll believes that before reopening the borders, the government should have got recommendations outside of Cabinet on the way forward through a bipartisan panel.
“We know we could not remain shut down forever, and that there would not be a vaccine to mitigate COVID-19 for about 18 months to two years, and that our economy is tourist-based, 80 percent of our employment comes from tourism. There should have been strict protocols before we reopen the borders, but obviously, that was not done,” he said. “The government dropped the ball on this one, and now GB is suffering because the competent authority made some bad decisions.”