By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Tribune Chief Reporter
FOREIGN Affairs Minister Darren Henfield has defended the government’s decision to close the country’s borders to all incoming commercial travellers, including Bahamians, saying the move was a bid to prevent a rise in COVID-19 cases as has been seen in other countries.
Yesterday, the minister said while the decision has left Bahamians stranded in other parts of the world, the Minnis administration had to consider the best interests of the country and its citizens who remain at home.
He said no decision has been made yet on how long the border closure would last.
The government on Friday decided to close the country’s borders for all incoming people, including Bahamian citizens. An advisory posted on Lynden Pindling International Airport’s website read: “Please be advised that the Nassau airport is closed to all incoming commercial passengers. The airport remains open to international outbound commercial passenger flights…”
Officials have said the decision was based on a surge of cases around the world, particularly in the Unites States where there are now more than 124,000 cases and over 2,100 deaths.
Up to press time there were 14 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the Bahamas.
“The government acted as judiciously as possible to protect the interests of Bahamians and this country,” Mr Henfield told The Tribune yesterday. “The government of The Bahamas will do all within its power to protect the interest of Bahamians and the livelihood and the welfare of Bahamians wherever they are, particularly in The Bahamas.
“So it is very unfortunate Bahamians are outside of the country, but given instructions from civil aviation there will be no inbound traffic of passengers to The Bahamas. We do not wish to see an increase of COVID-19 cases in The Bahamas as we have observed all over the world and so we are trying to flatten the curve.
“So if that means that some of us have to stay outside for the moment until we can get them home, that’s what it means to protect the interest of Bahamians.”
He continued: “We felt that we had to secure the borders of The Bahamas from the possibility of introducing any eventuality in The Bahamas outside of what we have already seen here to secure Bahamians. That is what we did. It didn’t matter what country it was, the prime minister acted as a doctor and as a prime minister we believe in the best interest of the Bahamian people.”
Asked to reveal when the borders would reopen, the minister said officials could only pray it ends very quickly.
“We understand the dynamics are changing daily and we also appreciate that this puts our country in a particular way as this is a tourist destination, but you know we have come from a fishing village into a metropolis in not too many years. I think we will be okay if we come together.
“I have a six-year-old granddaughter whom I am trying to protect. I am sure there are many others in my position. We have to do everything we can to protect.”
The minister advised Bahamians stranded anywhere in the world to contact the nearest mission or honorary consul to register and keep abreast of changes.