NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Prior to the repatriations last week, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis confirmed a total of 12 people had entered the country amid the strict border lockdown.
As has been widely reported, six Americans entered the country due to a breach of protocol on April 29.
During a national address today, Minnis revealed six other individuals were permitted entry and outlined the circumstances under which they were authorized.
These included, two Bahamians, one permanent resident and three work permit holders “who were skilled technicians contracted to conduct specialized emergency work for utility services”.
The prime minister acknowledged there have been many questions surrounding the issue from the public.
“Over the past weeks, questions have been asked about the numbers of individuals who were permitted to enter The Bahamas prior to the commencement of the general repatriation exercise for Bahamian citizens and residents who were abroad,” he said.
“I wish to provide the country with the information I have received from director general of the Bahamas Civil Aviation Authority on the number of individuals allowed to enter the country prior to the return this week of the 183 Bahamians residents.”
According to the prime minister, health officials screened all of the individuals who returned.
He said they were all placed under quarantine at home.
The prime minister explained that one Bahamian was permitted to exit the country and reenter The Bahamas after medical care over the course of a 24-hour period.
He said the individual was administered a COVID-19 test upon re-entry and was placed under self-quarantine.
Minnis said a second Bahamian, who obtained a COVID-19 test prior to returning, was also placed under self-quarantine.
He did not explain why the second Bahamian was allowed to return nor did he name them.
Eyewitness News revealed last week that Lyford Cay resident Betsy Dingman returned to The Bahamas from California.
She claimed she received the proper authorization.
Today, Minnis said a permanent resident, who took a test for the virus prior to arrival, was also permitted entry.
That resident was allowed to quarantine at home, he said.
Of the three work permit holders, two were needed to service Bahamas Power and Light’s (BPL) generators in New Providence, Minnis said.
They too were allowed to quarantine at home, “which was the policy at the time of their arrival”, according to the prime minister.
The third work permit holder was an engineer, who was “required on a private island”, Minnis said.
The prime minister said the man also obtained a COVID-19 test prior to arrival in The Bahamas and was permitted to quarantine at home.
Dr Duane Sands resigned as minister of health after accepting responsibility for making an exception for the six Americans who landed on April 29 and donated 2,500 swabs for COVID-19 testing.
Following his resignation, Minnis said he would name a new minister of health, but later announced he will take over the portfolio temporarily.
He served as minister of health under the last Ingraham administration.
During a Ministry of Health presser last week, Minnis was notably absent.
Health consultant in the Office of the Prime Minister Dr Merceline Dahl-Regis led the briefing.
Today, the prime minister commended Dahl-Regis and the health team for their work, and for keeping the public regularly informed.
He said the public can expect to continue to hear from Dahl-Regis and the cadre of medical professionals, and he would speak in “various ways and various places” as prime minister and temporary minister of health.
“Sometimes, it will be in national addresses,” Minnis said.
“Sometimes, it may be in Parliament; sometimes, it may be at Ministry of Health press briefings, and at times, briefings at the Office of the Prime Minister. Our country is blessed to have such a talented public heath team. They are all highly capable.”
The number of COVID-19 cases in The Bahamas remain at 92.
There have been no new cases for the fourth consecutive day.