By LEANDRA ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
AFTER weeks of pleading with the government to allow islands with no COVID-19 cases to resume day-to-day activities, residents of the southern Family Islands say they can finally breathe a sigh of relief.
On Sunday, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis relaxed restrictions on southern islands in the country, allowing commercial activity to resume.
These islands include Ragged Island, Rum Cay, Mayaguana, Inagua, Crooked Island, Acklins and Long Cay.
This, according to Dr Minnis, is a part of the government’s phased approach to slowly reopen the economy amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The guys over here I mean are elated. This is something we wanted for a long time so we’re happy the government has finally listened,” said a Crooked Island resident, who wanted to remain anonymous.
On Sunday, Dr Minnis said: “…The opening of various Family Islands was set to begin in phase two but we have decided to gradually reopen our Family Islands by zone, starting (May 4) in our southern Bahamas.”
Residents of New Providence on these islands who wish to return, Dr Minnis said, will be able to do so, but under certain guidelines.
However, the prime minister was clear that curfew and border restrictions will still remain in place on these Family Islands – except for emergencies approved by the Civil Aviation Authority.
Despite being given the all-clear by the government to resume commercial operations on the island, administrator for Inagua Marlon Leary said officials have no intentions of letting their COVID-19 guard down.
“…Our guard is still up. This border is tight in Inagua. We are practising protocols to the T. Every I is dotted and every T is crossed,” he said.
Mr Leary also said while residents are happy with the government’s decision to further ease restrictions, many are still anxious for their lives to fully return to normal.
“Inagua residents are happy with this partial opening,” he told The Tribune yesterday. “My phone basically has been blowing up with persons calling and wanting to know to try to get an understanding of what it means.”
“We broke it down to them to say ‘hey, this is what it means – you have to still practice your social distancing and do your business and go home. You can’t sit under the tree with fellows to have a cold one, no.’
“Just do what you have to do and return home… but most of the residents I’ve spoken to, in fact everybody is happy with it and we’re practising the social distancing measures and keeping with the protocols like the 24-hour curfew.”
Mayaguana island administrator Leonard Dames echoed similar sentiments to The Tribune, adding that some residents have even inquired about their ability to travel.
“The residents are grateful for the response in reference to the opening to an extent, here in Mayaguana as it relates to the commercial activity resuming,” he said.
“…Some of the residents had asked if it is possible for them to travel if they wish to. Some persons would want to go shopping or to family and other businesses, I don’t know but they just asked the question.”
Mr Dames said while locals understand that residents of New Providence are allowed to leave the island, many feel as though the government should make guidelines clearer for those who may want to return to Mayaguana.
He said: “The residents are very concerned because we have some persons going. They don’t want them to return or thinking that it’s easy to return back because it’s possible that they could come back with the COVID-19 virus.
“(Mayaguana residents) don’t want no one coming here unless they have been given permission by the competent authority and they have been proven to be negative in terms of the virus.
“It needs to be cleared up that if they do go, it would be restricted in terms of coming back because of the fear and concern of the residents.”
Mr Dames noted that even though there are no COVID-19 cases on the island, this does not mean locals will stop being cautious.
“We have been following the protocols, all of the curfews and all of the lockdowns that were implemented,” he said.
“… But we also have to be mindful that it was also mentioned that if the health officials if they deem it necessary, we could go back to these restrictions, so we don’t want to be relaxed, we want to always stand on the side of caution and have our guards up.”
Meanwhile, Ragged Island resident Rochelle Maycock added: “I mean yeah, we’re happy but it wasn’t really any activities going on over here anyway.”