Health Minister Renward Wells. Photo: Kemuel Stubbs/BIS
By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Tribune Chief Reporter
HEALTH Minister Renward Wells yesterday defended the government’s use of lockdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic saying the tough measures have been proven to work.
He said in instances where Grand Bahama and Bimini residents were restricted from moving, the end result saw COVID-19 cases fall drastically.
The results on these two islands, he said led to government and health professionals calling for a more stringent lockdown. However, he said, a balance must be struck so that the economy is not destroyed.
He also skirted around answering a question about whether another two-week lockdown was in the works for New Providence where case numbers are steadily increasing.
“I would say that that’s not the facts,” Mr Wells said when asked to respond to critics who have repeatedly said that lockdowns do not work. Among these is Progressive Liberal Party leader Philip “Brave” Davis who recently said the measure only “pauses” the situation.
“Lockdowns work and they have been proven to work,” Mr Wells said.
“We locked down Bimini in the first wave for 14-days with a surge in Bimini and it got to the point where I think for some 50 days there was not one case of COVID in Bimini between April and June. In our second wave there was a surge in cases where people are now looking at New Providence but the surge wasn’t happening here it was happening in Grand Bahama.
“We locked down Grand Bahama for 28 days. Folks missed that. Twenty-eight days of a lock down in Grand Bahama and Bimini and what do we have? We were seeing 20, 30 cases in Grand Bahama a day. We are now seeing one case, two cases, three cases.
“Lockdowns break the chains of transmission of this virus. We know that it’s been proven and so what we’re seeking to do is to manage lockdowns without completely damaging and destroying our economic life.
“So the government of The Bahamas, health professionals are calling for a more stringent lockdown, but we as policy makers we have to balance the lockdowns that are being requested with the aspirations of the Bahamian people and the economic desire of the Bahamian people to be able to get out there and work and so that’s where the health protocols come into place.”
Asked if a two-week lockdown could again occur for New Providence as was the case in Grand Bahama and Bimini, Mr Wells said: “I can simply say to you that our initial response to this now is we’ve had a weekend lockdown, we’re going to weekend lockdowns as the Prime Minister announced. We’ve also taken the curfew from 10pm and put it down to 7pm.
“What we’re seeking to do is to reduce the amount of social interactions that the Bahamian people are engaging in. That’s the first response that we’re having as an administration and seeking to give the Bahamian people the day in which they can work.
“But the reality is we should work while it’s yet day for the night comes when no man works so we’re seeking to simply have the Bahamian people engaging in the kinds of activities that they ought to be engaging in in the day and we’re seeking to reduce that at night and to reduce the social interactions on the weekends with a hope of us being able to contain this virus,” Mr Wells said.
Last week, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis announced weekend lockdowns beginning at 7pm on Fridays for New Providence and Abaco, two islands with high cases. During the week, a nightly curfew of 7pm is also in place among other restrictions.
He did not give an end date for these measures.