By DENISE MAYCOCK
Tribune Freeport Reporter
BIMINI residents are fearful about another lockdown for the island after two new COVID-19 cases emerged there this week.
Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis imposed a full lockdown of the small island community on May 18 when some 13 residents had tested positive for the disease. The country’s first COVID-19 death was also a resident of Bimini.
During the shutdown, the government provided food and essential items for the 2,000 residents to ensure no one went without food.
“Residents are afraid of a shutdown, they were talking about it,” Charlie Wilkinson told The Tribune. “They just hate to go into that again.”
Mr Wilkinson is the operator of Charlie’s Native Bread in Bailey Town. He said he is prepared to deal with another lockdown if that happens.
After the lockdown ended on June 1, Bimini had not recorded any new cases until Tuesday, July 21.
The main hotel on the island has closed down temporarily. However, visitors have been travelling by private air charters and by boat. The island’s economy recently experienced a significant boost in visitor arrivals on July 4, and on Sunday, a funeral was held on Bimini and some people from the US attended.
Mr Wilkinson noted that residents’ safety is most important. “If it has to be done, then it has to be done; if it will make the people more safer, then we have to do it,” he said.
When asked if his business could survive another shutdown, he said: “There is nothing we could do if we have to go through it. It is best to make everybody safe on the island.”
Nathan Hanna, of Nate’s Bimini Bread, said residents must protect themselves and their families from the virus by adapting to new protocols put in place, especially now that borders are open to visitors.
He insists that locals and visitors entering his establishment wear a mask and sanitise their hands.
Mr Hanna said there will always be risks of infection once the borders are opened. “It is a back and forth thing with the infections, and we need to get control of it,” he said.
“We had a good turnout of visitors to the island on July 4, there were lots of people here. The hotel closed now, and I feel it for them, but people still coming here by private charter. All we could do is protect yourself, and do what the PM said, we got to take precautions,” he stressed.
“When people enter my bakery, you got to have a mask on. I have a box right there at the door if anyone needs a mask, and hand sanitizer is right there too as you walk in. Some of them is play crazy, but I tell them they can’t come in here if they don’t wear a mask and sanitise,” he said.
Some visitors are reluctant, but Mr Hanna says they too must abide by the country’s rules.
“We all must follow the law of the country, and I tell people they need to stop bad-mouthing the Prime Minister; they may not like what he is doing but they need to respect the man because he is still our PM,” he said.
Mr Hanna is anticipating another lockdown. “I waiting to hear when he (the PM) say we on lockdown too; I guess he (the PM) is waiting to see if there will be any more cases.”
The self-employed baker and father of two had applied to NIB for relief following the first lockdown.
“I apply for relief and I was approved, but I still ain’t get nothing yet—I still waiting,” he said. “I call the lady and she ain’t call me back no more.”
Grand Bahama will start a two-week lockdown today.