PRIME Minister Dr Hubert Minnis.
By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Senior Reporter
PRIME Minister Dr Hubert Minnis called assertions that the government’s emergency powers are unnecessary “highly irresponsible, reckless and unreasonable”.
He was speaking in the House of Assembly during debate yesterday on an extension to a new emergency proclamation issued by Governor General C A Smith this week. The government is seeking Parliament’s approval to extend the country’s state of emergency to January 31, 2021.
“The measures we seek to extend today merely allow us to have the legal authority to act in case we need to use certain measures,” Dr Minnis said. “This does not mean that all of these measures are being used at a given time.”
Dr Minnis — who noted that countries like Barbados have extended their state of emergency into March next year — did not announce any changes to COVID-19 restrictions during his speech.
“The government needs these powers because of how quickly this virus continues to spread,” he said.
“One highly infectious individual could spread the virus in a closed room of 50 people to nearly every individual in that room. The infected people would then go (to a) home environment, family members and... they may then all go on to spread it to others. One case could lead to an outbreak. Hundreds and hundreds of people could get sick.
“When cases spike, governments do not have the liberty of a long period of time to act. We do not have weeks to act, instead governments must act quickly and decisively in order to avoid the spread of this deadly virus.
“If a government waits too long to act, many more people get sick; many more people are hospitalised and more people die.
“If the country followed the advice of the Opposition, The Bahamas would be in the same dire straits as those places which opposed lifesaving emergency measures.”
Dr Minnis said health officials have advised him that cases of COVID-19 in New Providence have stabilised since stricter emergency measures were implemented several weeks ago.
“To ensure that this trend continues and out of an abundance of caution, we believe that the relaxation of measures at this time may be premature and may risk an increase in cases,” he said.
He said health officials have also advised that restrictive measures are working in Eleuthera and the policies in Grand Bahama should also remain in place for the time being.
“On Monday past no new confirmed cases were reported on Eleuthera,” he said, adding that next week he will announce whether restrictions on mainland Eleuthera should continue or not.
“Within days of the restrictive measures being put in place, health officials were able to isolate all positive cases on Eleuthera and quarantine the contacts of positive cases.
“The curve is starting to bend. Health education initiatives are working.
“A team from the Ministry of Health will travel to Eleuthera this coming Friday, November 27, to conduct a follow-up assessment of the COVID-19 situation. Restrictions will remain in place for the rest of this week.”