Prime Minister Hubert Minnis.
By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Senior Reporter
PRIME Minister Dr Hubert Minnis pleaded with Bahamians to comply with COVID-19 protocols for at least three more weeks as he gave notice that the country’s state of emergency will extend until October 31.
He spoke in the House of Assembly yesterday morning during what House Speaker Halson Moultrie called an “extraordinary sitting” after a Parliament staff member tested positive for COVID-19 last week.
Parliamentarians are not entering quarantine despite the potential exposure, citing advice from health officials. However, Speaker Moultrie said both he and parliamentary clerk David Forbes have tested negative for COVID-19.
Yesterday’s short sitting was adjourned until September 23. According to Mr Moultrie, 15 members attended the sitting, including himself and the deputy speaker of the House.
Progressive Liberal Party members were not in attendance, citing concerns about the virus.
Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis criticised the absence of Progressive Liberal Party leader Philip “Brave” Davis.
“Under no circumstances would the government nor myself place any Bahamian or even a legislator in any form of danger,” he said. “I’ve been in constant communication with the medical professionals and have been assured of the protocols and as you’ve stated we carry on with the protocols as the medical professionals would have advised us to.
“It’s unfortunate that the leader of the opposition is not here. We all know that the leader of the opposition has COVID and the leader of the opposition has antibodies. For all intents and purposes the leader of the opposition is immune. He is the most safest in this country at this time. He is immune and that immunity will last three to six months. We don’t know the duration but we do know that he is the safest in this country at this time so it’s unfortunate that he is not here.”
According to Dr Minnis’ Emergency Powers Orders, however, a person is required to quarantine for 14 days after returning from travel abroad. Mr Davis returned to the country last Friday from the United States where he was being treated for COVID-19.
Dr Minnis also foreshadowed the approaching reopening of the country as he pleaded with people to follow COVID-19 protocols.
“The medical team, health professionals have been doing an excellent job in conjunction with the minister of health and we would note that numbers are coming down,” he said. “I must congratulate those in the construction industry who have become more disciplined and compliant in terms of wearing the facial masks and that may have possibly helped why we are seeing a decrease; I can’t say at this particular time.
“But I’m still somewhat disappointed by the amount of illegal social gatherings and parties that are still occurring. I ask the Bahamian people if they can at least remain compliant just at least until the end of this particular month by wearing facial masks and trying to resist from such social gatherings it would do a lot for their country in that it would accelerate the process of the decline and decrease in COVID cases that we are seeing and would help us to reopen a lot sooner and would help them in returning back to their jobs and would help the country. So I’m only asking that the Bahamian populace just make a three weeks of sacrifice by utilising the masks and yes I know it’s uncomfortable and discomfiting for some, but what is three weeks of discomfort for a lifetime of success both in the economic and for the future of this country?
“I send out a plea for the Bahamian people to be compliant for us over the next three weeks as we continue to open our country. And they would not be surprised to hear very soon that the Family Islands now are being declared COVID-free because that’s the message we want to send out to the world so the world would come and visit our country and help to boost our tourism and economy. But the Family Islands are doing well. Harbour Island for example has no cases and I’m happy to say Harbour Island is free for all intents and purposes and can engage in activities but still follow the mitigation protocols.
“I would be happy to stand very soon and declare that the entire Bahamas is in such a state but we would need their compliance just for three weeks. Three weeks of sacrifice by our young people and our Bahamians and three weeks of enforcement by what we call the Bahamian security force because we’re all a part of this together. We can’t leave this just to the police. The police are stressed. They have an entire nation to manage.”
Yesterday, PLP chairman Fred Mitchell responded to Dr Minnis’ “attacks” on Mr Davis, calling his remarks “divisive” and “contradictory”.
“The prime minister told the House that it was ‘unfortunate’ that the leader of the opposition was not present in the House,” Mr Mitchell said in a statement. “What a joke. The COVID-19 orders signed by the competent authority, the prime minister, require returning residents to quarantine for a period of 14 days upon arrival.
“Mr Davis is complying with that protocol despite the fact that the attorney general claimed in the Senate that the rules do not apply to members of Parliament and senators. The leader of the opposition therefore claims no special privileges. He sticks to the rules,” Mr Mitchell added.