Deputy Prime Minister Peter Turnquest.
By EARYEL BOWLEG
DEPUTY Prime Minister Peter Turnquest has acknowledged concerns that ongoing protests and other factors in the United States may lead to an increase in COVID-19 cases there and have an impact on the country’s July 1 date for resuming commercial travel.
“Unfortunately as you all know a lot of the recovery is dependent upon the US and what’s happening with the travel leisure market there and there is concern that the virus may be returning, particularly with all of the protests that are going on in the US,”, Mr Turnquest said outside of Cabinet.
“There’s concerns that there may be an increased spread and that will show up in the next couple of weeks and so that will have a lot of impact upon our reopening on July 1.
“Even as we will have to reconsider what that may mean for that July 1 start date, but as it stands we anticipate reopening the border on July 1 and we are hoping that we will have a careful and slow and steady ramp up of the sector…”
Last month Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis made the announcement that government officials were considering resuming commercial travel in the country on or before July 1. However, he warned the dates are not final and may change depending on the circumstance.
According to US media, 22 states in America are seeing an uptick in new coronavirus cases. Among them is Florida, which reported an increase of 1,096 COVID-19 cases over a 24-hour period this week; it’s the sixth day in the past week that the state has confirmed over 1,000 new cases, according to Local 10 news. Overall, Florida has more than 60,000 cases with nearly 3,000 deaths from COVID-19.
The US also has the most cases globally with 1,965,685 confirmed.
Mr Turnquest also expressed the government’s optimism of ramping up the tourism sector to bring much needed economic relief and reduce the pressure experienced in the public system at the moment for income assistance and other social assistance programmes.
With talks of diversifying the economy to decrease the reliance on tourism, Mr Turnquest said the government has put deliberate thought in this area and this will be seen over the next couple of days as the ministers roll out their contributions. Yet he acknowledged this process is “not a quick fix” and it will take some time.
“It’s going to take some level of restructuring of the economy. It’s going to take investment by outsiders as well as domestic partners to get us going again and to broaden this economic pie and diversify as we all talk about this economy away from the very sensitive tourism/leisure market.
“…We are vested fully in the tourism and leisure market. We’re not going to walk away from that. It has been very productive for us over the years. We believe that once there is a vaccine or some treatment. . .people will start to travel again as they gain confidence and so we have to be ready for that.
“We have to invest in that and we have to change the model a little bit I believe to more boutique and smaller resorts thereby reducing the risks of widespread transmission if we do have to live with the virus for some time but I don’t believe we can abandon, at this time, that sector,” Mr Turnquest said.
Meanwhile, as more local sectors reopen, Works Minister Desmond Bannister cited the “huge challenge” of implementing social distancing at the Nassau Straw Market.
“We have over 400 vendors in a very small space and so the chairman of the Straw Market Authority is going to meet with the vendors and their leaders and try to get some accommodation. Some ideas from them as to where we go and what we do, so that we can keep them safe and. . .(keep) visitors to this country safe.”