NASSAU, BAHAMAS — The government must ensure there is a contingency plan in place if COVID-19 cases spread to unaffected Family Islands, Progressive Liberal Party Shadow Health Minister Dr Michael Darville said yesterday.
On Sunday, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis announced the introduction of a COVID-19 travel card to facilitate the resumption of inter-island travel.
Health officials will implement a risk assessment that will guide authorization for individuals to travel throughout the country by plane or boat.
Some applicants will not have to be tested for the virus, if deemed low risk by an approved physician.
While the PLP has been continuously calling for the opening of islands not impacted by the virus, Darville criticized the limited testing and called for forward-thinking governance.
“We cannot open up those Family Islands particularly those that are COVID-19 free based on assumption,” he said.
“It has to be scientific…We need to have a very strong plan in the event we have a case, or God forbid we have clusters of cases. We need to have things in place in order to know what step of the way and how we are going to go about rectifying it, without closing back.
“You can’t close it back. Once you open, you have to open with a strategy to keep it open…The economy cannot take those kinds of shocks. You open and you stay steady as you go.”
The prime minister also announced that Cat Island, Long Island, Abaco and Andros could resume commercial this week, joining Inagua, Ragged Island, Rum Cay, Mayaguana, Crooked Island, Acklins and Long Cay.
Residents on the remaining islands unopened – Exuma, Eleuthera, and San Salvador – expressed frustration over the lack of justification in keeping them closed.
In an interview with ZNS yesterday, Minnis explained that the government cannot open multiple islands simultaneously, given the risk of any island experiencing a viral outbreak of the respiratory illness.
But Darville noted that this could have been avoided, had the prime minister allowed questions from the media at his Sunday address.
“In the midst of a pandemic, it’s the responsibility of the prime minister and the minister of health to speak to the nation to alleviate fears,” Darville said.
“It is also their responsibility to ensure when we make a decision, we need to be able to explain to the media the reasons for the decision.
“…If you do not answer questions people make their own assumption and subsequently this is where the problem is.”
He warned that given the economic climate the assumptions on policies only create fear and confusion.
Minnis has not participated in a Ministry of Health interactive press conference since April 19 and has yet to directly respond to swirling questions surrounding the breach of protocol which led to former Health Minister Dr. Duane Sands’ resignation.
Yesterday, Darville renewed calls for the government to launch an investigation into the protocol breach, which allowed six American legal residents to disembark a plane along with a donation of COVID-19 test swabs amidst the country’s border closure.
“The minister of health apparently breached a protocol, he stepped aside as a direct result of it,” he said.
“Those other individuals who breached protocol, they need to be investigated as well, so what is good for the goose, must be good for the gander.”