By TANYA SMITHCARTWRIGHT
THE president of Bahamas Electrical Workers Union has confirmed that up to 90 percent of Bahamas Power and Light staff on Cat Island have tested positive for COVID-19.
As the country experiences its third wave of COVID-19, Cat Island and Andros have seen serious spikes in their numbers, which has caused Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis – after seeking advice from healthcare professionals – to implement a two-week lockdown for those islands, which began at 8pm on Monday.
The lockdown was announced on Sunday during a national address from Dr Minnis. As it stands, only essential workers will be allowed to visit those islands during the specified two-week period. In addition to that, there will be no in-person activities and burials are not permitted.
Dr Minnis said the restrictive measures were taken because of the limited health resources on the islands mentioned.
When he was contacted yesterday about BPL workers being infected, Kyle Wilson, BEWU president, said the situation is not good. However, a “Family Island team” has been deployed to Cat Island to pick up the slack, he said.
“To my understanding the high rise of COVID infections in Cat Island has affected the membership there,” the union chief said. “I think about 80 or 90 percent of the members are infected. Some of them have been airlifted to Nassau due to them being critical.
“We have persons from various parts of BPL that make up a Family Island team that travels to assist Family Islands with short falls, overhauls and operational needs. Some of them have been dispatched (to Cat Island) as well as team mechanics from other areas throughout The Bahamas.”
Asked about the wellbeing of the BPL workers headed to Cat Island in the midst of a COVID outbreak, Mr Wilson said he inquired and was told it is all being taken care of.
“I have spoken to BPL’s chief operations officer who has assured me that all the necessary steps in terms of sanitisation and health consciousness have taken place,” he said. “I also encourage those persons there to wear their masks, to wear their gloves and necessary PPEs to protect themselves.
“They have already been dispatched. BPL is just like the nurses and the doctors; we are considered essential. As reliable energy supply is essential to modern life, we don’t have the protocols like everybody else, we cannot necessarily social distance on the job as we have to work together. So with that said, I encourage all members to take the necessary protocols to protect themselves and their families when they return home.”
As some of the BPL staff on Cat Island that fell sick with COVID were listed as being “severely ill,” Mr Wilson said he is keeping a watchful eye on them.
“I have been checking on those members,” he continued. “I spoke with a few of them over the weekend and I will continue to do so and monitor as time goes by and hopefully whatever corrections can be made in terms of doing things differently that can help persons as far as not catching COVID is concerned. We want to implement those things across the entire BPL from Abaco down to Inagua.”
The Tribune reached out to BPL chairman Donavan Moxey for comment yesterday, however he was unavailable.
A day earlier, he told this newspaper there were “challenges” in the Family Islands and that teams were being deployed from New Providence to ensure continuous services.