By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Senior Reporter
BIMINI residents are bashing the competent authority’s decision to require PCR tests for travel to and from their island because the tests are not available there.
With COVID-19 cases rising on the island, the government on Thursday amended the Emergency Powers regulations to require that people who are not fully vaccinated produce a RT-PCR test administered by an accredited lab to travel to and from North and South Bimini.
Bimini MP Pakesia Parker-Edgecombe confirmed that PCR tests are not presently administered on Bimini.
“I am advised that residents will have to utilise the clinic for such tests, which will be sent to Nassau,” she said on Friday.
Asked if this means the government will send PCR tests to the clinic in Bimini, she said: “It is a must. And I am certain it will.”
Health Minister Renward Wells and other health officials did not respond to The Tribune’s messages and calls up to press time.
Obie Wilchcombe, the former MP for Bimini and the Progressive Liberal Party’s candidate in that constituency for the next general election, said it’s perplexing to announce the required PCR tests for an island that does not administer them.
“Nobody does that in Bimini,” he said. “Right now I think this is again a very negative development because the people of Bimini are being told to have a PCR test administered and there is no place to do it. What do you expect to happen? The government has to take another look at the decision or cause for the PCR test to take place at the clinic and ensure a mechanism is there to ensure that it can be done.”
According to the July 7 COVID-19 dashboard, seven cases of the virus were confirmed on Bimini and Cat Cay, bringing the total number of cases there to 189. To counter the surge in cases in Bimini, the competent authority implemented a 7pm to 5am curfew for the island on July 1 and restricted wedding, funeral and other activities.
The latest change, however, prompted Mr Wilchcombe to say: “Everything being done seems to be haphazard. People of Bimini are not being told what’s happening one day to the next. They’ve been asking questions and we don’t know the extent to which there is a problem in Bimini.
“I’ve been asking the government to at least inform the people of Bimini. I do feel badly for the people of Bimini and there’s been so many families that have had to be quarantined and because the clinic is overwhelmed we understand there have been deaths and yet we are not putting the emphasis towards handling the matter with a sense of emergency.
“There is some spread of the virus but we seem to be taking it very nonchalantly and, of course, visitors continue to come to the island. We want the economy to grow, but at the same time people are more important than things.”
However Mr Wilchcombe would not say if he believes Bimini should be placed on lockdown.
“I’m not an official and I can’t speak to that with any kind of absolute knowledge. I believe the officials of the Ministry of Health and I trust them. We will take their advice, whatever they decide. But we are not being allowed to understand the severity of the problem in Bimini. Once that is explained we could prepare ourselves for what comes next. We need to know what’s causing the spike. Is it because our borders are open? We have large numbers of people coming into Bimini and it’s imperative to understand that the protocol must be followed.”