By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
MORE than 100 police officers are in quarantine because of COVID-19 as the number of overall cases in the country jumped by 40 yesterday, including 21 in Grand Bahama, 16 in New Providence, two in Exuma and one in Cat Island.
National Security Minister Marvin Dames told The Tribune that as many as ten police officers have been infected with COVID-19 and at least one police station in New Providence has been closed for deep cleaning as the country battles the surge of cases. He also revealed that in a bid to better enforce quarantine rules, police have taken over control of the hubbcat monitoring system from the Ministry of Health.
Six police officers in Grand Bahama are among the recently confirmed COVID-19 cases, he said, and fewer than 70 officers on that island are in quarantine.
“This is not out of control,” Mr Dames said. “We know what’s going on on Grand Bahama. Given the spread there, it’s expected that you would have one or two impacted in some way. We are working to mitigate these issues and ensure that it doesn’t sweep through these agencies because we need these agencies. We have reservists and officers still able to execute as needed.
He said Police Commissioner Paul Rolle “made the prudent decision” to temporarily close the Fort Charlotte police station so it could be sanitized after an infected person interacted with two officers that are now in quarantine.
“There is a lot of misinformation out there,” he said. “We’re trying to contain that. As far as we’re aware from the police side, we know that as many as ten persons who are confirmed and as a result through contact tracing maybe just over 100 persons are in quarantine as a result of that. In the Defence Force it’s much less, they may have about two persons that have been confirmed and far less than 100 in quarantine as a result. This is the nature of the business. The prison may have had one person, who was not at work, who may have been confirmed. I don’t think he would’ve interacted with much, or anyone, other than when he went to see the doctor. No inmates are infected at the prison as a result of the efforts and work being. Given correctional facilities throughout the world have had a tremendous problem this is commendable. We continue to monitor, doing temperature checks and carrying out proper protocol at these agencies so that the numbers have been extremely low.”
Bahamas Customs Superintendent Tyrone Sands told The Tribune at least one customs officer has recently tested positive for COVID-19 and about a dozen officers are in quarantine. The customs headquarters building was closed over the weekend for an immediate deep cleaning, he said.
Concerns about the enforcement of quarantine and isolation rules were renewed on Friday when Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Delon Brennen revealed that a mother and daughter who travelled abroad recently broke quarantine rules and infected eight other people.
“The hubbcat, the management of it was under control of the Ministry of Health,” Mr Dames said. The command station is at the Cable Beach Police Station and officers are equipped to monitor “every single person throughout this country,” he said.
“The police now have taken full control of the management of hubbcats and we will be in very short order providing additional support to the police where we will have not only monitoring but an active duty patrol hubbcat team of COVID ambassadors who will work with the police to ensure public places and beaches, public areas like Arawak Cay and Potters Cay, are properly monitored and controlled and wherever people are on the hubbcat monitoring then this team under the direction of the police will pay spontaneous visits to homes,” he added.
Mr Dames said the number of COVID ambassadors will be in the hundreds and involve police officers working with civilians.
“This is all in an effort to complement what we are currently doing and ensure people are adhering to the orders that are being laid out,” he said. “We’re excited about this because it is a pioneering step we’re taking to ensure that citizens are safe and able to move about without having to be concerned about being impacted by those persons who decide to not adhere to the orders. People will be placed at static points and we will have mobile patrols in place to complement the hubbcat monitoring.”
Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis announced in April that the penalty for breaking quarantine will be a $20,000 fine and/or five years imprisonment. No one has been charged with breaking quarantine rules to date, according to police press liaison Assistant Superintendent Audley Peters. Mr Dames said “the last thing” authorities want to do is enforcement.
“Our first step is to ensure people understand that this is serious business,” he said. “The last thing we want to do is restrict people’s freedom but what is important is we don’t want people to lose their lives. We want to get the message out and failing to do that if we have to enforce we will enforce because this is a matter of saving lives and every country around the world is seeking to do that.”