By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Tribune Chief Reporter
PROGRESSIVE Liberal Party leader Philip “Brave” Davis said yesterday it is “disgraceful” that two Americans were allowed entry to the country while Bahamians in some cases have been made to suffer in foreign countries amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Describing the decision as a “show of hypocrisy”, Mr Davis said the country deserves an explanation as to why this was allowed.
The two Americans, who are said to be residents of The Bahamas, were allowed to land in New Providence on Wednesday despite the closure of the country’s borders to commercial flights with incoming passengers, Minister of Health Dr Duane Sands confirmed yesterday.
His comment came after a local daily reported the news. Dr Sands said the Americans came on a cargo flight bringing donated COVID-19 tests and that he authorised their entry into the country.
The decision has angered Bahamians at home and abroad as being unfair.
Mr Davis said: “I had been admonishing the government not to abandon one of its primary and cardinal obligations to Bahamians. You can’t just leave your citizens in a strange land.
“What we’ve seen today is a selective admission of persons who are able to come. This is what has characterised their conduct since our engagement began with this virus. It has always been selective. It appears to be rules for some and not for others and when you balance it all appears to be more beneficiary to a select few and not an ordinary Bahamian.
“It just continues to expose the hypocrisy. “They are not governing for the Bahamian people.”
He said as far as people knew, provisions were being made for the return of citizens and residents, not that people were already being allowed in the country.
“As far as we knew provisions were being made. What has espoused is they continue to use welcoming words, things that people want to hear but then it’s not truly actions, they say one thing but do something else.
“A lot of students were calling and wanted to come home. The problem too is that their parents couldn’t go to a money transfer agency and send them money so they were left at the mercy of the benevolence of family or relatives.
“It is truly disgraceful the way that the government has mistreated our people. I think this cries out for an explanation whether they want to give it or not. But again they say one thing, do another and so now they have to let the Bahamian people know what they are doing.”
The two Americans were allowed to quarantine at home, Dr Sands has confirmed yesterday and officials are awaiting their COVID-19 test results.
However, on Monday Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis said officials were finalising details to ensure Bahamians stuck abroad are brought home. He said upon their return, Bahamian citizens would be kept in a designated quarantine facility guarded by the Royal Bahamas Defence Force.
At the time, Dr Minnis said some 200 Bahamians were seeking to return home. Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials have said that number has increased exponentially.
A Bahamian woman, who was teaching English in Japan and has been stuck outside the country for one month, said she was not surprised that she, along with hundreds of others, is prohibited from returning home.
Shakara Rolle said she left Japan in late March hoping to return home but has been unable to. However, she told The Tribune she was happy to not be between a rock and a hard place, and doing okay in Texas where she’s been held up for the past few weeks.
Ms Rolle said the entire process has been frustrating since March 28.
“I went from Japan to Hawaii, Hawaii to San Francisco then to Florida and as soon as I got off that plane I was told by numerous family and friends that the borders would be closing that very day and then they followed up by saying to foreigners but not to citizens,” Ms Rolle said.
She tried, without luck, to get information from the Office of the Prime Minister and the COVID-19 hotline. Calls made to the airport authority, she said, were also unsuccessful.
Ms Rolle said she later booked a flight on Silver Airways at a cost of $388 from Florida to Grand Bahama but before she could catch that flight the decision was made that the country would be closed to all.
“March 28 was the date of my flight and this whole process was annoying because I was trying to get a refund from Silver Airways and they are giving me the run around saying the flight did leave for Freeport and I am like how if you weren’t supposed to land in the Bahamas.”
Asked her thoughts about the two Americans being allowed in on Wednesday, Ms Rolle said: “What would I expect from our government? I am not really surprised.”