AG: Govt. may expand exempted businesses list

AG: Govt. may expand exempted businesses list
  • Preventing sale of liquor was an unintended consequence of emergency order

  • Bethel says officers “may be a little overstretched” amid 24-hour curfew

  • Farmers allowed to upkeep livestock with social distancing measures

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Attorney General Carl Bethel said today that Cabinet will meet and consider expanding the exempted services and businesses as stakeholders and the public raise matters for consideration.

Emerging issues include licensing and registration of vehicles, operations on farms, home security and surveillance firms and the sale of liquor, among others, he said.

“I want to assure the Bahamian people as I said before, this is an entirely new situation, and so, it will have to constantly be tweaked as different facets of activity are brought to our intention, okay,” said Bethel, who appeared as a guest of Guardian Radio’s “Morning Blend” with host Dwight Strachan.

“But in all cases, to the extent that there is any limitation, it can be okay be in respect to essential workers necessary to perform the core functions of whatever is exempted.”

He added: “It is going to be a rough road.”

Yesterday, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis announced a 24-hour curfew, border shutdown, and a ‘shelter in place’ order, among additional measures that expand emergency powers regulations introduced last week to prevent the local spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19).

The new measures will remain in effect until March 31, unless extended.

There are four confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the country.

Asked if farmers are permitted to upkeep livestock, Bethel said that was not prohibited “so long as you are there by yourself or maintaining social distancing”

“Livestock could be considered an essential corollary to food stores; these are things necessary for human consumption and life, so yes, you would be able to do that,” he said.

“If not specifically exempted, it is something we could look at and how we condition it, so for example livestock and farming itself. We have to look at that, but we have to set very stringent social distancing guidelines.”

Bethel said he will add the matter for the Cabinet’s consideration.

He revealed it is the government’s intention to exempt suppliers of cooking gas, if it is not already exempted.

As it relates to licensing vehicles, a service that has not been exempted to resume service, the attorney general advised the government will make a decision as to whether to exempt and continue licensing or defer the process to an alternative date, particularly for those who’s car licensing expires this month.

Additionally, the attorney general said while pool service companies are not listed as an essential service in the emergency order, it seems to be “a reasonable thing because a pool that is untreated becomes a cesspool; algae etc., so that could well be”.

He added: “Plus, it could provide emergency water if things really got rough I suppose, and the exercise aspects of it as well. I will recommend; there are some things that I will recommend. We are preparing a list and then I have to recommend it to the Cabinet, and once Cabinet agrees with it — it’s logical — then the prime minister.

The attorney general was also asked about the capacity of the police of force, as officers seeks to enforce the 24-hour curfew, suspension of prohibited businesses and mandatory social distancing guidelines for shoppers, both inside and outside exempted stores.

“They’re spread out now, more so,” Bethel said.

“I think it is an operational matter for police. Because of the need to block off major intersections, etc. they may be a little overstretched.”

Alcohol

Retail and wholesale liquor stores have remain closed since last week after the prime minister ordered non-essential services and businesses to suspend operations to the public.

Yesterday, the attorney general said this was an “unintended consequence” of the order.

He said while it may be healthy consequence,

Asked if takeaway restaurants that have liquor licenses may sell their alcohol wares, the attorney general said: “Their license would probably be conditioned on the sale for consumption in their premises. I don’t know of licensing and all like that in terms of how it is practiced.”

He suggested that could change.

“That will be discussed I am sure because it is an unintended consequence, but then you know it may be more healthy,” Bethel said.

“There is a balance between the two you know. It may also drive people to do extraordinary things that may be dangerous. So, there are three sort of considerations that we would have to look at, but we’ll make a determination.”

Returning Bahamians

All airports, sea ports are closed to incoming regional or international traffic or visitors.

The attorney general pointed out that while the airport is closed to incoming flights with foreign passengers;, Bahamians may return home, provided they can find an outgoing flight from their destination.

“The airport is closed to incoming flights, which have foreign visitors on them,” he said.

“The airport is not closed to returning Bahamians, provided you can get a flight.

“Now of course, I think our largest neighbor seems to be wrestling with the question of whether to close their borders; enclose their physical borders, but their air borders remain open and there seems to be an internal strong debate as to how far to go.

“So, one can presume that the airlines rights now will continue to offer reduced services, but some.”