Abaco lockdown ‘would hinder Dorian recovery’


Tribune Staff Reporter


ABACO residents say they will not support another full lockdown for the island to prevent the further spread of COVID-19 as more restrictive measures would hinder Hurricane Dorian restoration efforts and negatively impact the island’s economy.

Instead, residents are calling for more police presence to enforce existing COVID-19 orders, attributing the rise in cases to the lack of enforcement of the measures on the island.

Their comments come after Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis on Sunday foreshadowed the implementation of more restrictions for Abaco and New Providence after noting that the current measures in place for those communities “are not achieving the desired results.”

There are more than 150 confirmed cases in Abaco, while cases in New Providence have skyrocketed to more than 3,300. It is not clear, however, how many of those cases are active.

To help with charting the country’s way forward from the crisis, Dr Minnis said he met with the Pan-American Health Organisation and World Health Organisation representative to The Bahamas, Dr Esther de Gourville, who was expected to brief Cabinet members yesterday on preventive strategies.

At the end of the meetings, Dr Minnis said he will update the nation on their recommendations, “especially on the way forward for New Providence and Abaco”.

Yesterday, The Tribune spoke with several Abaco residents to see if they would support additional restrictions for the island. However, many told this newspaper they would not support stricter measures mainly for economic reasons.

Ken Hutton, president of the Abaco Chamber of Commerce, said while he believed extreme measures may have been needed in the beginning to prevent COVID-19 spread, he does not think resorting to such tactics will bring forth positive results for Abaco in the short and long term.

Instead, he said, lockdown restrictions “will carry seriously negative economic impacts on the island going forward and not just during the lockdown period, but thereafter.”

The Chamber of Commerce president said in order to effectively deal with the COVID-19 situation in Abaco, officials need to better enforce the current measures in place, rather than adding more restrictive ones.

“Quarantines may have worked in the beginning and I think they did work in the beginning, but I think the increase of spread has been caused by a lack of enforcement mainly because of, and I think it has to do with the manpower here to enforce it than any lack of, I guess, will power to do it,” he said.

“So, it’s difficult to get additional manpower here so I do feel it is a very difficult situation for the government to do and I truly feel that they’re doing the best they can, but I think we need to deal with the situation realistically in that is not a preventive situation, but it is actually an enforcement situation.”

George Cornish, Central Abaco chief’s councilor, also expressed similar comments to this newspaper, adding there are still people on the island who conduct business as usual without regard for the existing COVID-19 protocols.

He said residents have been sounding the alarm about the illegal activities happening months ago. But now he fears that recent police intervention may have come a little too late.

“We’ve been telling them about the crime that’s been happening in Abaco, the places that’s been open after hours and the traffic that’s been on the road at night time when it’s supposed to be lockdown hours and now they just started to crackdown on these night time activities just lately in the last week or so,” he told this newspaper yesterday.

“You pass certain places and they’re packed with people outside. People are standing around with no social distancing and the police passing up and down and they’re not doing anything, and no one is monitoring what’s going on and that’s maybe why the increase of COVID-19 is happening.”

Mr Cornish said he fears more strict measures would deal the island’s rebuilding efforts and by extension, its economy, a serious blow.

He said: “We’re in October, 13 months since the hurricane that passed us and there are still people that are sleeping in tents and there are still people with roofs not repaired. We’re now seeing a lot of construction happening and that’s the only source of income right now.

“So, if you do the restrictions, are you going to close down the construction? That means we’re going to have another six months or a year that people are going to behind in repairing their homes and providing jobs for people. That’s not good.”

However, there are some residents who feel that more restrictive measures, especially as it relates to mass gatherings, are needed in order to slow the virus spread on Abaco.

A resident in the community, who asked to remain anonymous, told The Tribune: “From what I’m seeing, they have to. People are partying. I mean I wish it wouldn’t have to affect all the businesses opening who are obeying the rules but restaurants and bars aren’t.

“The innocent have to suffer for the guilty I guess but something needs to be done about the mass gatherings. They send so much police but they are complicit with the partying.”

During a Ministry of Health press conference on Friday, Dr Gillian Bartlett, who heads the Family Islands COVID-19 task force, said many of the new cases on Abaco are connected to previous confirmed cases.

She said: “What we’re seeing on the ground of Abaco is definitely an increase of COVID, mostly on mainland Abaco, Cooper’s Town, Marsh Harbour and also in the Sandpoint area, we’re just having a lot of persons presenting to our clinics with side symptoms of COVID.

“…And when you contact trace, you also find that those persons (who they) have been in close contact with are also coming down with symptoms so that seems to be widening the spread in Abaco and it definitely is an island of concern.”

However, residents there are also calling for more data from health officials concerning the cases on the island.

“We’re now at 157 cases (as of Monday) which includes the cases back in April…and using an aggregate number that goes back to the beginning of this entire pandemic is, I think, can be misleading,” said Mr Hutton. “So, my question is how many active cases are there and how many of the cases that they’re calling cases are positive tests with no symptoms or symptomatic positive tests? That’s information that we don’t have.”


DDK 3 years, 7 months ago

From what I understand, the police presence in Abaco is almost non-existent, but they are among the first customers when the bar and liquor stores open for business, that they are absolutely uninterested in enforcing the necessary virus safety protocols, but they do have an interest in enforcing curfew and making arrests of the lesser fortunate in the communities who may be found walking home a few minutes after curfew. This has certainly been the norm in Nassau. This whole lock-down policy has been nothing but a farcical, destructive abuse of power of the ruling polical party and its leader who may just get their comeuppance sooner than the next general election. The People can only be pushed so far, even we historically tolerant Bahamians...


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