NATIONAL Security Minister Marvin Dames.
By LEANDRA ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
WHILE the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases among correctional officers is “very low,” National Security Marvin Dames said it is natural for officers to have fears about safety in the workplace.
However Mr Dames said “not a week goes by” without officials having discussions on how to minimise exposure within their respective agencies.
This, he said, applies to the Royal Bahamas Police Force, the Royal Bahamas Defence Force as well as Bahamas Department of Correctional Services.
“I know the total to date (at RBDF) is over 100. That’s not bad and I think the police force is over 100 as well and the correctional department, they are very low, the numbers are very low,” Mr Dames replied when asked about the total number of COVID-19 cases in the armed forces.
It is not clear how many of those cases are active.
This comes days after Correctional Commissioner Charles Murphy said he had no reports of COVID-19 cases currently active in the prison.
On Monday, this newspaper reported some correctional officers had concerns after two inmates were allegedly removed from a particular cell block and placed in quarantine, prompting suspicion from staff.
According to officers, staff are still made to interact with the remaining inmates who were in close proximity to the two inmates before they were moved. This has increased fears about a potential COVID-19 exposure at the prison.
Mr Murphy has since hit out at officers’ concerns about their safety at the facility, insisting that he has no reports of confirmed COVID-19 cases there.
“I don’t know who communicated to you or with you in reference to coronavirus in (the) prison but I am not aware of any corona in prison at this time and the officers that they are threatened — they are fully aware that anything that relates to (the) prison is supposed to be published by the official authority and they know their job will be threatened by the Correctional Act,” he told The Tribune on Sunday.
Asked about the issue, Mr Dames said while it is natural for correctional officers or any one for that matter to have COVID-19 concerns at the workplace, officers must also do their very best to follow the health protocols to avoid contracting the virus.
Mr Dames said COVID-19 “is real” and there is “nothing wrong with having concerns”.
“There’s nothing wrong with someone echoing that I have some concerns. I have concerns (about) whether I contract COVID or not. I mean I work seven days a week.
“We’re meeting although we’re social distancing and wearing masks. I have concerns whether you’re going to catch it and take it home to your family.”
The Mount Moriah MP added: “Now after having said that, these agencies were among the first to introduce COVID prevention plans and well, you look at the numbers throughout all of these agencies comparatively speaking and you compare them with frontline agencies anywhere the world over and those numbers are low and also taking in mind to that when you look at the defence force and the police force, these are large government agencies in The Bahamas.
“They are microcosms of our wider community. Many of these officers have to return home in their communities where COVID is and so at the end of the day it boils down to personal responsibility and if you take care of yourself and those around you and you continue to adhere to the warning from the health officials, you should be okay.”
He also said officials are constantly discussing strategies on how to prevent a COVID outbreak within the law enforcement agencies.
“Not a week goes by, we have weekly meetings on the prison, the defence force, the police force as to how their strategies and their efforts to mitigate COVID within their respective agencies and so they go the extra mile,” he said.
“And so, when we talk about putting people in quarantine, they go extra just to ensure that we don’t have a serious outbreak of COVID in these agencies, but you know officers have to go home and there’s always a risk. We have community spread in our communities so there’s always a risk that someone will get it.”