Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis in the House of Assembly. Photo: Donavan McIntosh
By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Tribune Chief Reporter
PRIME Minister Dr Hubert Minnis announced yesterday the government’s intention to extend the COVID-19 state of emergency and associated emergency orders until May 23.
He added Bahamians have appeared to let their guards down, pointing to funerals and Junkanoo parades that have defied protocols.
As he read a new resolution to extend the order, Dr Minnis said local officials can now see a “light at the end of the tunnel,” but people should remain vigilant to ensure the country does not regress regarding the number of positive cases, or worse, end up in a similar position to that of the United States.
The current emergency order expires on January 31.
The country has been under a state of emergency since March 2020.
“I want to say briefly that I want to remind the Bahamian public that, yes we are doing well, however we are letting our guards down, which could have devastating effects on our country moving forward as we look around and see the number of funerals in violation of the order,” Dr Minnis said after he read a resolution into the record of Parliament to extend the Emergency Powers Order.
“There are a number of memorials in violation of the order and even Junkanoo groups engaging in rushouts in violation of the order. I want to remind the public that we should all be vigilant because it only takes one individual to become infected and the virus can have catastrophic and devastating effects on our society placing us in a similar position as seen in the north.
“I recognise how individuals feel especially about their loved ones and want to participate in funeral activities and I recognise that in many instances this may sadden families and hurt families, but I want to remind individuals that I myself experienced this when my brother had passed away during Hurricane Dorian and though both myself and my family were grieving and hurt, we kept that internally because we felt that the country came first.”
Dr Minnis’ brother Cecil Bosfield died in Florida in September 2019. Another brother, Dwayne Pratt-Minnis, died in September 2020 in a US hospital.
Yesterday Dr Minnis said his family made the decision to delay the second brother’s funeral for a month out of respect for protocols in place.
He continued: “Not many may have known that but during that time I too was hurting, and I know what families feel having gone through that myself. I only want to remind them that people spread viruses and I only ask that they remain vigilant for at least another month because the vaccine may possibly be here soon and if we remain vigilant, we will be able to protect our future and our society.
“I want to remind the Bahamian public of this: I am not trying to be hard or difficult. I love them very much, but I love even more our country and the future survival of our country and our young people whom we reserve our country for and whom we pride it to ensure that they have a great future.”
The Killarney MP also made an appeal to the families of other well-known people who have died in recent weeks to obey the standing COVID-19 rules when planning their funerals.
“I too would love to participate, but I ask them to put their country first. That one infection within a funeral or parade be it by Saxons, Valley or anyone else can set us back to where we came from and put us on the track where hotels opening can be jeopardised.”
He noted a recent announcement from officials at Sandals that resorts in New Providence and Exuma are expected to open soon.
“So, I beg individuals to just continue to follow orders for at least an additional month. I am very happy to see how they responded to mask wearing and ask that those who are not wearing masks to continue to wear them as we can see light at the end of the tunnel.
“The pain that many would have felt because of the lockdowns and curfews, they were not intentional. They were only to save lives and save our country.”
The extension will be debated in Parliament tomorrow.