Prime Minister Hubert Minnis.
By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Senior Reporter
PRIME Minister Dr Hubert Minnis told Junkanoo members not to hold a rushout that is now at the centre of claims that it contributed to the creation of a COVID-19 cluster.
The rushout was held earlier this month to celebrate Dr Philip “Slimey” Thompson, a prominent Junkanoo figure and member of the Shell Saxons Superstars who died in August.
Amid questions about whether the event facilitated the rapid spread of COVID-19 among participants, Dion Miller, the chairman of the Junkanoo Corporation of New Providence, said yesterday that he and Dr Minnis told participants not to engage in the activity.
“Persons,” he said, “are sending stuff around through social media claiming that this event spread COVID-19 but I don’t think it was an official document or action from the Ministry of Health that confirmed this. However, the prime minister nor the JCNP chairman gave any group the permission or green light to have such an event.”
“They received communication from both myself and the prime minister advising them not to participate in such an event and the organisation made the decision to do what it had to do.”
A spokesperson for the Office of the Prime Minister confirmed yesterday that Dr Minnis advised members not to have the rushout. Without his permission, the gathering likely contravened Dr Minnis’ emergency powers orders.
A representative of the Saxons declined to comment yesterday and health officials did not respond to questions about whether the event is seen as a “super-spreader” of COVID-19.
“As the chairman of the JCNP I would recommend that all persons who were out there participating in that event do their due diligence if they can afford to to get tested and I would encourage everyone to wear their masks,” Mr Miller said.
He said to his knowledge the only person who participated in the event that is known to have contracted COVID-19 is a relative of Dr Thompson.
“As for actual members of the group, I have not heard reports of anyone testing positive for COVID-19,” he said.
Gene “Sparky” Thompson, one of the participants in the rushout and a friend of Dr Thompson, said Saxons leaders did not plan the rushout.
“There was no organisation of any Junkanoo march by the Saxons organisation,” he said. “The Saxons organised that by themselves. Nobody was around me without masks. The Junkanoo group came out of the Ministry of Health yard, they lined up ahead of me and they started the Junkanoo rush. Nobody organised that. They started marching…all of the fellas around me had their masks on.”
Mr Miller said he is not surprised that some disobeyed official orders.
“Dr Slimey Thompson was one of the leaders of that organisation and was like a father figure to many members of the community,” he said. “I knew they would’ve still tried to recognise him in some way despite what we told them. If you go through Mason’s Addition today you’d still see the gigantic banner they have celebrating him. Traditionally in the Junkanoo world when a Junkanoo (member) passes away we honour that person with a traditional Junkanoo rushout. He was a giant in the community and had such a positive impact so they held this event in his honour.”