NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis yesterday responded to criticisms surrounding his decision to allow some Family Islands to reopen for commercial activity and not others, amid the country’s COVID-19 lockdown.
During a one-on-one interview with ZNS’ Altovise Munnings, the prime minister explained that the government cannot open multiple islands simultaneously, given the risk of any island experiencing a viral outbreak of the respiratory illness.
The interview, which is being released in parts, is the first time that the prime minister has taken questions from the press since the resignation of former Health Minister Dr Duane Sands.
Minnis, who now serves as the temporary health minister, has also not participated in a Ministry of Health interactive press conference since April 19.
Instead, the prime minister has been providing weekly updates via live televised national addresses.
On Sunday, the prime minister 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.
However, the announcement was met with anger and frustration from residents on remaining closed islands including Exuma, Eleuthera, and San Salvador, questioning why they did not qualify to reopen given that they too have no cases of the virus.
But the prime minister shot those criticisms down, noting that The Bahamas simply does not have the capacity to transport possible cases to New Providence – especially given the $10,000 cost for a single incubation tent.
“We must assume that there’s a possibility that individuals could enter the island and an island can possibly go viral on you,” Minnis said.
“…So if a particular island goes viral or goes left on you, you can manage that. If you open up all and two go viral on you, you have a catastrophe. Your health system may possibly meltdown.
“So whatever we do, we must take into consideration our capacity to manage, our capacity to transport.
“Yes [the islands] are sterile at this time, but we must assume that if anything goes wrong, we must be on top of it, never catching up.”
The prime minister took his justification further. He explained that the government had only intended on opening one additional island.
Minnis insisted that given the land crab season and the expected economic boost from crab sales, it was decided to release Andros. He described this time for the island as Christmas for Androsians.
“So we had to make a determination, do we open San Salvador, Eleuthera…or do we allow the Androsians to take advantage of this particular time when their economic engine is roaring”, he continued.
“That’s an entire population we had to take into consideration and I could not allow them not to take advantage of a situation like this when their economy is booming, at a time when Androsians themselves depend on their livelihood.
“The amount of monies that they generate at this particular time take them through the entire year.
“That was a deciding factor that I could not lose such an opportunity. So as a result, the decision was made to release Andros and hold back the remainder at this time.”