AG defends extension of state of emergency

AG defends extension of state of emergency
Attorney General Carl Bethel speaks with reporters outside Cabinet on Tuesday, January 26, 2021. (FILE PHOTO)

Bethel: Only a little more ways to go before the start of mass vaccination

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Attorney General Carl Bethel yesterday defended the government’s decision to seek an extension of the state of emergency and emergency order until May 23, pointing to the onslaught of COVID-19 variants worldwide.

On Monday, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis gave notice in Parliament that he will move a resolution for the extension. The existing orders will come to an end on January 31.

Speaking to reporters outside Cabinet, Bethel said the decision was made “out of an abundance of caution” and necessary “so that we do not let our guards down”.

“We do anticipate over this period that we will have access to the vaccines,” Bethel said.

“We will begin the process of vaccinations according to the medical advice.”

He attributed the country’s relatively low COVID-19 numbers to the discipline of the emergency orders, comparing The Bahamas’ virus spread to the “uncontrollable surges” seen in Europe and in parts of Africa. 

“It is a difficult thing for all of us to have these constrictions on movement and mandates of masks and social distancing,” Bethel continued.

“But at the end of the day, we have to understand that these disciplines have brought us this far — that and faith have brought us this far.

“We only have a little more ways to go before we can begin the process of mass vaccination, hopefully.

“When it is done, then it will be possible, it will be reasonable and it will be justifiable to further reduce and perhaps even eliminate the emergency orders.

“But let us get to that stage where Bahamians are protected.”

The attorney general insisted that the government is simply trying to “maintain discipline until such time that we can vaccinate a substantial population of The Bahamas, particularly the elderly, the [uniformed], frontline workers first and teachers”.

Governor General C A Smith has issued three proclamations of a state of emergency since the start of the pandemic.

The extension of the emergency orders would authorize the competent authority — the prime minister — to continue existing emergency measures to mitigate the spread of the virus.

These include curfews, closure of prohibited establishments and other restrictions and health guidelines.

While some have opined that the emergency orders infringe on the rights and freedoms of Bahamian people, Bethel asserted that it is a constitutional process and therefore no constitutional rights have been infringed.

“The orders are there designed to preserve and protect the health system of The Bahamas, which is necessary not just for people suffering from the virus, but from people with a host of other non-communicable diseases,” he added.

“…It is in all of our interests that the healthcare system be protected so that it can serve the Bahamian people and not be overrun.”