NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis has ordered a police probe after a weekend wedding he authorized in Harbour Island did not appear to adhere to COVID-19 protocols.
The Office of the Prime Minister confirmed yesterday that permission was granted by the competent authority to allow two weddings – one in Harbour Island and the other in New Providence – to be held over the weekend with more than five guests despite the nationwide lockdown amidst a significant surge in coronavirus cases.
Videos and photos began to circulate yesterday of an American couple celebrating their wedding in a large gathering at the Coral Sands Hotel on Harbour Island, Eleuthera.
The video clips purported to show dozens of guests not wearing masks or social distancing.
There was also a live band performing at the event, along with a Junkanoo rush-out.
Some Junkanooers could be seen wearing masks under their chins, with others properly covering their mouths.
In one of the videos, the groom could be heard toasting invited guests: “…to we couldn’t have a wedding day, to we got it done. So thank you all so so much for all you went through and everything it took to get here because it means more than anything to the both of us”.
Shortly after 8pm, the Office of the Prime Minister released a statement advising that it was aware of the wedding videos.
“The Competent Authority granted permission for two pre-planned weddings with more than five in attendance to be held over the weekend lockdown, provided that proper COVID-19 mitigation protocols were adhered to,” the statement read.
“Permission was granted for a destination wedding on Harbour Island, Eleuthera and a Bahamian wedding in New Providence.
“The Competent Authority has asked the Royal Bahamas Police Force to investigate reports that proper COVID-19 protocols were not adhered to at the wedding held on Harbour Island.”
Bahamians quickly reacted to the videos with vitriol, castigating the couple and lamenting authorities for allowing the event to take place given the country’s rising COVID-19 cases.
On Friday, Minnis announced a range of restrictive measures, including a weekend lockdown, a nightly curfew, and the discontinuation of inter-island travel.
Minnis also announced the limiting of gatherings including funerals and weddings with a maximum of five people.
The orders that were released on Saturday morning indicated that a wedding that was prearranged for that day (July 25) or Sunday (July 26) may continue but with attendance limited to five people.
Deputy Chief Councillor Jay-Jay Percentie told Eyewitness News that the guests arrived on Thursday before the lockdown was announced.
He said the guests were encouraged not to continue with the wedding but decided against cancellation.
Percentie said some Bahamians who were hired to work the event, including wait staff and Junkanoo participants, opted not to take the job because of the risk and the fear that they would be breaking the law.
“The District Council was a little perturbed by it because it’s something that was not supposed to be happening under our watch,” he continued.
“And I know the locals are slightly outraged that some people were sort of coerced into doing this event and people going to the wedding.”