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Still-Closed Family Islands Bewildered

By YOURI KEMP

Tribune Business Reporter

ykemp@tribunemedia.net

Exuma's Chamber of Commerce president last night said he was baffled that the island has not been included among those allowed to fully re-open their economies despite having no COVID-19 cases.

Pedro Rolle told Tribune Business: "No explanation was given, which would have been nice to know. What are the things that would cause an island to remain closed or to be reopened? Because we have been operating in the dark.

"Our concern has been that we just don't understand. Abaco can be opened, Long island has been opened. It's an interesting thing to determine what criteria was used that would cause Exuma to remain closed. We can only speculate, but I don't know.

"If there was a medical reason for it I think we can understand it, but there have been no cases that's been reported in Exuma. So we don't know what's the difference between Exuma and any other island that has been reopened. We just don't know, but we will have that discussion on how best we should respond."

The prime minister, in his national address yesterday afternoon, said Abaco, Long Island, Cat Island and Andros are all permitted to fully re-open their economies for commercial activity as of today. However, no mention was made of Exuma, Eleuthera and San Salvador, which have to remain under present restrictions.

The move, and lack of explanation, was blasted by the opposition. Chester Cooper, the PLP's deputy leader and Exuma MP, slammed the prime minister's failure to include his constituency among the islands permitted to open as "unfair, arbitrary and perverse".

"There was no legitimate reason given for why Exuma cannot resume commercial activity while other Family Islands in the same circumstances are allowed to do so," Mr Cooper said. "I call on the competent authority to display some competence and either open Exuma for commercial activity or provide the medical explanation for why Exuma cannot operate as others can."

Similarly, Senator Clay Sweeting, who hails from Eleuthera, said the island had been left with more questions than answers after it was excluded from the re-opening. He added that many had been hoping they could "get back to work and the local economies can support one another during these rough times".

"The people of Eleuthera are hurting, and many are starting to fear the negative economic effects of the virus more than the virus itself," he added. "I, too, call upon the competent authority to explain to the people of Eleuthera with medical facts or otherwise why the commercial activity cannot open to drive our economy."

Philip Davis, the opposition's leader, also queried why "normal business cannot return" on both those islands as well as San Salvador, especially since construction - which has already restarted - places workers in much closer proximity.

Mr Rolle, meanwhile, said the Exuma Chamber would discuss its concerns with other Family Island Chambers of Commerce as well as the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation (BCCEC).

"We are expressing disappointment that no reason was given for it, and we are in this state of limbo from one day to the next on when it happen. Will it happen?" Mr Rolle asked of Exuma's re-opening to all domestic economic activity.

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