Arawak Cay was busy last Friday.
By TANYA SMITH-CARTWRIGHT
CONCERNED health officials say they found the behaviour of Arawak Cay patrons toward COVID-19 requirements on Saturday “disturbing”.
In phase four of the country’s plan to re-open, stalls at the popular eating spot were allowed to open for outdoor dining on Friday with certain requirements to include social distancing and masks. However, patrons were seen, in many pictures and videos which circulated online, crowded together at Arawak Cay and not wearing masks.
When contacted, Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Delon Brennen expressed concern.
“Yes, we’re concerned,” Dr Brennen said. “We are hoping that our law enforcement officers will assist in helping our citizens to comply with the public health measures such as social distancing and wearing of face masks.”
Frisco Jolly was one of the patrons who visited Arawak Cay this past weekend. It was the first weekend in months that a lockdown was not in effect. He said he wanted to relax and enjoy his freedom, adding he thinks the risks for COVID-19 infection are low in the country.
“I was at Fish Fry getting my freedom back,” Mr Jolly said. “This government had us locked down for three whole months. The town opened back up and I went on Fish Fry to eat and have fun with my friends. I cannot eat or drink with a mask on. That’s stupid to think I am wearing a mask when I gone there to eat and drink, aye? I ain’t on that run (sic).
“These people don’t understand that having people locked up in the house have you thinking all kind of things. I did a lot of reading on this virus and we are doing good here in The Bahamas based on what I’ve been reading. There is no need to wear a mask and breathe in the air you breathing out. It makes no sense.”
Margeaux Pierre, who also went to Arawak Cay on Saturday, says she feels it is safe to go without a mask as COVID-19 numbers are low in the country.
“I don’t think this is as serious as they make it out to be,” Ms Pierre said. “I watch the stats whenever they send them out. No one here catching corona like that. If they locking us down for some other reason, then they should just say so. Yes, I was at Arawak Cay on Saturday. I saw people who I hadn’t seen in forever and we had a lot of fun. I had a mask in my bag but I never put it on. It was good being out there in the sunshine.
“Only a handful of people wore a mask, but no one looked sick. Truth is I am tired of being locked up like a prisoner in my house. I doubt it very strongly that numbers are going to rise because we were out there on Saturday with no mask.”
The Tribune also spoke with COVID-19 task force coordinator Dr Merceline Dahl-Regis, who found the behaviour of the patrons “disturbing”, but said she would rather let Prime Minister and Minister of Health Dr Hubert Minnis comment on the matter.
“Yes we are concerned, but you will hear from the Prime Minister about this on Wednesday,” said Dr Dahl-Regis. “He said he will speak to it on Wednesday. I would not offer an opinion on it at this time. It is disturbing, yes, but I would not offer an opinion on it at this time.”
Previously, Dr Minnis had encouraged residents to wear non-medical masks to help prevent carriers who were not showing symptoms from unknowingly spreading the disease. The US Centers for Disease Control have also advised people to wear masks to slow the spread of the virus - while the WHO this month also updated its advice, recommending people wear masks in public, particularly in crowded environments.
Up to press time, the country’s COVID-19 rate stood at 104, after a new case was reported on Sunday. It was the first case reported in just over a week.