NASSAU. BAHAMAS — The number of people attempting to leave Grand Bahama ahead of the two-week lockdown overwhelmed the health system yesterday, according to Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis.
As a result, Minnis said health officials made the call to shut down the movement of vessels from the island, and immediately quarantine all passengers who traveled from Grand Bahama to New Providence.
In a communication to Parliament today, Minnis apologized to passengers who he acknowledged were ‘inconvenienced’ when they were taken into immediate quarantine without warning.
“I’m not here to blame anyone and no one should be blamed,” he said.
“The virus is here, it’s not going anywhere. We must deal with it.”
Minnis said: “Obviously this caused great stress and duress to many Bahamians because they would not know such a measure would be taken.
“I want to assure them the measure was taken to ensure safety and survival of entire Bahamas and the economy.”
Passengers who traveled from Grand Bahama into New Providence yesterday told Eyewitness News they were subjected to a grueling process that left them without food or water for hours without prior warning.
One passenger said that he did not get into his room at a government quarantine facility until shortly after 2am today.
The prime minister announced the lockdown in a statement on Tuesday morning, and the closure of domestic travel at 6pm that day.
Minnis said: “Immediately after such an hour, there were boats literally lined up at Grand Bahama in East End that were moving throughout the Family of Islands, and also attempted to move into to New Providence.
“As a result of that we were forced to give orders to the Port Authority to ensure that no movements of vessels from Grand Bahama at this particular time.”
He continued: “There were excess passenger loads of individuals who wanted to come to New Providence as a result the health system was overwhelmed.
“Concerns the health officials had at that time, because of the excess number of individuals being brought to the capital, many of them would be lost to the system and migrate and permeate through the society.
“Some could have possibly be positive and put us in a difficult situation in terms of tracking and monitoring.
“The immediate decision was made to try and obtain as many accommodations as possible and (quarantine) all individuals traveling from GB as a temporary health measure…so health could do their work and make a determination,” he said.
Health officials confirmed twenty new cases of COVID-19 late last night, bringing the total number of cases in the country to 194.
The dashboard was released at 11.35pm, and no further details were given for the third consecutive day.
In Parliament, Minnis stressed the country could run into a grave situation if officials are not proactive.
He said: “Our medical personnel could become burnt out…and health system go into melt down.
He continued: “We would not see it today but 14 days later. We could have had severe spread through the Family Islands. I urge Bahamians, if they truly love their Bahamas, they must continue to follow the health orders, continue to wear mask, proper sanitation, social distance.
Minnis said: “Avoid large gatherings, because if they don’t we won’t see the effects until 14 days from today.”