AG: State of Emergency declared, but emergency powers not yet activated

AG: State of Emergency declared, but emergency powers not yet activated
Attorney General Carl Bethel. (FI:E PHOTO)

NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Attorney General Carl Bethel confirmed yesterday that the Governor General’s proclamation order for a public state of emergency, and COVID-19 regulations are already in effect.

The order, which gives the government emergency powers to manage the national spread of the virus, took immediate effect on March 17, 2020 and will be in force for 14 days.

The Bahamas is among several countries worldwide – including the United States –  to declare a state of emergency in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

The declaration provides for immediate, temporary and extraordinary measures to ensure safety and security of its citizens because of a major crisis – including war, natural disasters, pandemics or civil unrest.

The prime minster tabled the governor general’s proclamation order and the Emergency Powers (COVID-19) Regulations, 2020, which provides for the detention and mandatory isolation of people suspected or confirmed to be infected with COVID-19, and related screening requirements; requisition of private property and essential services; mandatory curfew; restriction of access to any area; and criminalize the publication of false statements.

Minnis would not indicate yesterday when or if he will move to activate emergency powers restricting movement.

When asked about the matter, the prime minister said Cabinet will be meeting today, telling reporters: “You will know.”

Speaking to Eyewitness News on the matter, Bethel said: “The government has not yet decided the extent to which and how draconian, how serious, how extensive the order is going to be. That will be decided within the next day or so, if not (today).”

Officials have announced two more confirmed cases of the virus in the country – taking the total number of cases to three.

Contact tracing stemming from the original COVID-19 patient, identified household members who recently travelled to Canada, Trinidad and Dubai.

Officials say a total of 30 people have been assessed, including a healthcare professional, to determine their level of exposure.

Article 29 of the Bahamas Constitution provides for an extension of the state of emergency up to six months with parliamentary approval.

The House of Assembly is expected to meet again on March 30.

At which time, Bethel told Eyewitness News: “Parliament will debate the matter as to whether or not to extend the order, which is quite frankly an urgent necessity to extend the order, and to extend the regulation for a further period of 30 days. Thats an urgent necessity, you need to do that.

“And any order that might be made will also be extended.”