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‘We Couldn’T Open Them All In One Go’

Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis.

Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis.

By RASHAD ROLLE

Tribune Senior Reporter

rrolle@tribunemedia.net

PRIME Minister Dr Hubert Minnis said normal commercial activity on islands like Exuma and Eleuthera has not been restarted because officials have to assume that people may have visited those islands and potentially brought COVID-19 to them.

He gave the explanation the same day Free National Movement Chairman Carl Culmer said he was “disappointed” after Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Delon Brennen told this newspaper he did not know why some Family Islands without COVID-19 cases remain shut, saying it was a decision made above the level of Ministry of Health officials.

Dr Minnis’ comments came during an exclusive interview with state broadcaster ZNS last night. The last time he held a press conference on April 19.

The nation’s leader said: “We must assume that there is a possibility that individuals could have entered the island and an island can possibly go viral on you. So if an island goes viral, one has to recognise how many individuals you can transport from that island to New Providence, bearing in mind that if there is any illness you have to transport them via air ambulance and you must use what you call an incubation tent (and) that incubation tent has one use and is $10,000. So if a particular island goes viral or goes left on you could manage that.

“If you open up all and two go bad on you, you have a catastrophe, your health system may possibly melt down, so whatever we do we must take into consideration our capacity to manage, our capacity to transport, yes they are sterile at this time but we must assume that if anything goes wrong we must be on top of it, never catching up."

Dr Minnis said officials were selective in which islands they chose to reopen and they chose Andros over Eleuthera or Exuma because of the importance of crab season to the people of Andros.

“This is the economic time for Andros’ economy,” he said. "Many Androsians depend on crab, they export crab to New Providence and wherever else. That’s like Christmas for them, that’s their economic engine. So we had to make a determination, do we open San Salvador and Eleuthera because it was only one additional island we were going to open. We do San Salvador, do we do Eleuthera, or do we allow the Androsians to take advantage of this particular time and their economic engine is roaring? That’s an entire population we had to take into consideration and I could not allow them not to take advantage of a situation like this when their economy is booming at a time when the Androsians themselves depend on their livelihood. The amount of money they generate at this particular time takes them through the entire year so that was a deciding factor that I could not lose such an opportunity so as a result the decision was made to release Andros and hold back the remainder at this time.”

During a national address on Sunday, Dr Minnis announced that Cat Island, Long Island, Abaco and Andros would be able to resume normal commercial activity, though weekday curfews and weekend lockdown measures remain in place for all islands. Ragged Island, Rum Cay, Mayaguana, Inagua, Crooked Islands, Acklins and Long Cay resumed commercial activity on May 4.

Eleuthera, Exuma, San Salvador and the Berry Islands have not yet been added to the list and Dr Minnis faced criticism for not explaining why.

To date, only New Providence, Grand Bahama, Bimini and Cay Cay have had confirmed cases of COVID-19.

Asked by The Tribune on Tuesday why some Family Islands without COVID-19 cases have not been allowed to resume normal commercial activity, Dr Brennen said: “I honestly do not know. I think that’s a Cabinet and Office of the Prime Minister level decision. That is not a Ministry of Health level decision.”

When reminded that Dr Minnis has often said he relies on the country’s COVID-19’s task force for advice on these matters, Dr Brennen said: “This decision is not on us. Well, from a health perspective I am not sure what those reasons are, but there are so many things that come into those decisions that are not health related so I think it would be better to ask those who make the decisions as to what went into the decision making as opposed to just health.”

In an interview with Our News yesterday, Mr Culmer criticised his comment.

“I’m disappointed that the good doctor would come out and say something like that when his other colleague gave out a reason why the delay in opening up the other islands,” Mr Culmer said, referring to a recent interview involving infectious disease expert Dr Nikkiah Forbes.

Dr Forbes, while appearing as a guest on Guardian Radio show “Morning Blend,” suggested that direct flights from Europe to certain islands or frequent visitors traveling by boat to those islands are among the reasons those islands are closed.

However, she too said “other factors” outside of health determine why some Family Islands with no confirmed COVID-19 cases have been not been allowed to resume normal commercial activity and she did not suggest health officials support the decision to keep those islands closed.

Regarding the rationale for keeping Family Islands free of COVID-19 closed, she said: “So, I couldn’t say I totally agree, but remember, my realm is health, which does (play) a large role in considering how policymakers will handle such things, and I’m glad that our policymakers are receptive to our input."

Progressive Liberal Party Senator Dr Michael Darville, who co-chairs the PLP’s COVID-19 response, countered Dr Minnis’ explanation yesterday, saying that decisions to reopen islands should be based on science, not assumptions.

"We cannot open up the Family Islands particularly the islands that are COVID free based on assumptions," he said. "It has to be scientific. We have to work along with our healthcare team with the taskforce. We need to look and see what’s happening on the ground and that the personnel are in place and we need to have a very strong plan in the event that we do open up and we do have a case or cluster of cases. We need to have things in place in order to know what step of the way and how we’re going to go about it.”

The country also recorded one additional case of COVID-19 yesterday: a 50-year-old New Providence man currently isolated at home, bringing the total number of cases to 97.

Comments

joeblow 1 week ago

Minnis clearly lack the capacity to make rational decisions that can balance the national interest without continuing to oppressively hurt the citizens of the country with his despotic dictates. Sadly, not one MP from the FNM side has said anything to bring the cries of their constituents to the fore, or suggested they take a salary cut for now. What a sorry bunch!!

In spite of that, a vote of no confidence in Minnis should be tabled and the DPM should hold the reins for the time being!

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proudloudandfnm 1 week ago

You do know this song you're singing is being sung all over the world?

See the thing is this virus is new, not even 6 months old. So of course it's going to appear chaotic. You change as data demands, as conditions dictate.

I am no fan of this FNM, never have been, in my opinion Minnis is right up there with Perry in terms of being an empty suit.

But I give him a solid B+ on the pandemic. Our numbers speak for themselves. And it could not have been easy keeping Nassau in check.

So I say well done to the FNM on this.....

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joeblow 1 week ago

… solid B+ no way. Our numbers are not a reflection of reality. Firstly, many people who called the COVID hotline with symptoms were told to stay home and were never tested or followed up-- this is a fact. Secondly, they did not order enough tests and sent infected people home with no way to monitor their movement through the community. Finally the decisions to open are not based on testing, so we actually do not know how many people have actually been infected or are immune. Our numbers in Nassau are probably going down because we have attained herd immunity in part because Minnis repeatedly caused mass congestion of people at food stores and other places during the course of this pandemic NOT because of some stellar job done by Minnis or the ministry of health. It is only by Gods grace that more people did not get really sick and die!

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moncurcool 1 week ago

The issue of people travelling to these islands by plane or boat as not being open is irrelevant, as the borders are closed. If the borders are closed, how are people then travel to these islands? The decision to open Andros was financial, which should be the same reason to open the others which no cases.

Every time I try to give the PM credit for something, he opens his mouth and speaks and causes me to wonder. this lockdown clearly jamming Minnis head. He need to lift it if only for him to start to think straight. As bad as he is though, will take him over Davis at any moment. And that tells you the predicament our country is in.

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stillwaters 1 week ago

Davis and Mitchell are in frantic campaign mode......the fight for leadership will soon ensue....let me get my popcorn. Jumping up in indignant anger at every decision the government makes. Thing is, either one of them at the helm will only harm the PLP

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thps 1 week ago

Make no mistake. All MPs have their re-election in mind.

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thps 1 week ago

I think it's obvious there are mixed motives in reopenings

If he says, partly by the cabinet, part economic and part health, part pressure by an MP, I have lots of broke people on that island, part election, part guessing, part science, etc that would be the complete honest answer.

Though the reasons are always 'guided by health...'.

It seems like with the crabbing story many can argue their economic well being is at risk, particularly those on the other family islands.

We can assume, whatever issue exists in Exuma, may exist in Andros or the other islands which have opened.

Plus as someone mentioned the borders are closed. So European flights? Which European Flights are coming to the Bahamas?

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TalRussell 1 week ago

Watch out comrade Androsians, first comes the pretend really care about your out island - then the red coats letdown.
Ragged Island, Abaco, Grand Bahamaland, and now the Biminites are all proven reminders of Mr. Minnis's phoney pretends red coats 35 House elected buckets holds no water, Nod once for yeah, Twice for no?

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Chucky 1 week ago

Minnis is completely delusional.

He speaks as though he has lost his mind.

Complete and utter nonsense comes out of his mouth.

If Minnis has one shred of decency, or any pride at all in this nation left, he would and should immediately step down.

His nonsensical comments, complete disregard for for honest communications, lack of common sense and utter incompetence in general are an embarrassment to our great nation.

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TalRussell 1 week ago

Ma comrade Chuck, tis the OPM's comrade sister Erica's handiwork prop the junior red coats out front do OPM's pretend care spin, regardless, you've hit something Jet Prop specific that had to have landed within clear sight of the crown's aviation minister Dioniso James.

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birdiestrachan 1 week ago

Quote out of the mouth of wise men comes wisdom for the law of God is in their heart. Out of the mouth of fools comes utter foolishness.

Doc would have done better to have kept his moth closed. he is stumbling over himself. and he will do well to stop embarrassing himself.

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DDK 1 week ago

Rather amazing, or should I say amusing, PM is worried about the expenditure of 10K on an 'incubation tent'. How much was spent by The People to repatriate 185 odd Bahamians after the q-tips for ex-pat entry boo-boo?

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The_Oracle 1 week ago

So, how many of these crabs will make it to the consumer if Potters Cay is locked down? Or can you sell Crab on the dock but not fish/Conch? Is there a wholesaler of Crab?

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