By LEANDRA ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
RESIDENTS in Family Islands without COVID-19 have criticised the government’s decision for not allowing Exuma, Eleuthera and San Salvador to resume commercial activities, saying it’s unfair that some islands without cases are given certain freedoms, while others are not.
Calling the situation “disappointing” to residents who have been following the health and safety protocols since the pandemic began, one San Salvador resident, who wanted to be identified as Mrs Sawyer, said the community is in need of answers from the government as to why their lives cannot return to some normalcy.
“The persons in San Salvador are very, very angry,” she said. “If we don’t have any cases here, I don’t know why. Rum Cay is right next door to us and they give Rum Cay the (freedom) to move around and they still have San Salvador at a standstill.
“There wasn’t any incident reported that caused us to not be clear like the other islands, especially like Rum Cay that’s right next door to us. I know they don’t have as much residents as San Salvador but like I said, we’ve been practising (social distancing) and abiding by the rules.”
On Sunday, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis relaxed restrictions on Cat Island, Long Island, Abaco and Andros, allowing commercial activity to resume on the communities along with the other islands that were given the green light earlier this month.
However, Exuma, San Salvador and Eleuthera, which also have no confirmed cases, were absent from the list, with no explanation given by Dr Minnis or health officials on the matter.
These islands have been under strict guidelines for roughly eight weeks now, despite having no confirmed COVID-19 cases.
In view of this, Mrs Sawyer said residents are calling for the government to listen as the current restrictions could potentially affect preparation for the upcoming hurricane season.
She said: “You need the support of the community to go and assist to help and prepare the homes for hurricanes. So, it will affect us because we have an elderly person in San Salvador that doesn’t have family members here who are able to help her and assist with getting her house prepared.
“Even though we have a hurricane committee that does it, sometimes persons in the community who are not even on the hurricane relief committee may take the initiative to go and help assist other persons to make the process much quicker and to get everyone well prepared.
“We thought we would’ve been cleared in the first one, but they skipped us and went to Rum Cay. That was like ‘what’ and here it is again, they bypass again so we’re thinking that its something that is personal, and we haven’t had any cases.”
San Salvador’s Island Administrator Earl Campbell added: “Some of the other concerns that persons have here is a lot of the restaurants and other businesses aren’t open, but in addition to that persons here they want to go crabbing and the crab business is a part of the local industry.”
Residents of San Salvador are not the only ones questioning the logic of the government’s decision.
Referring to the situation as “mind boggling”, Maxine Wilson, of Harbour Island told The Tribune yesterday that “it doesn’t make sense” that residents cannot operate freely, while construction workers from New Providence are allowed to travel to the island.
“It’s funny because they still allow persons to come here,” she said.
“Because there’s construction going on and they had people come in from Nassau here so I don’t really understand what they’re trying to protect if they’re still allowing people from the capital where the virus was mainly to come here.
“That doesn’t really make much sense to me but, they probably have their reasons why they didn’t open up.”
Expressing his dismay on the matter, Exuma and Ragged Island MP Chester Cooper noted that the residents of Exuma were “deeply disappointed” with Dr Minnis’ address.
He also accused Dr Minnis of acting like a “dictator” who doesn’t have to explain “nonsensical decisions” to the public.
“There was no legitimate reason given for why Exuma cannot resume commercial activity while other Family Islands are allowed to do so. The prime minister appears to be using the emergency powers granted to him to lord over the Bahamas as a dictator without having to explain the nonsensical decisions he is making to the people whom he serves,” he said in a statement on Sunday.
Attempts to get an explanation from health officials on the matter were unsuccessful up to press time.