NASSAU, BAHAMAS — The House of Assembly passed a resolution last night to extend the public state of emergency in The Bahamas to January 31, 2021.
During debate on the resolution, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis made the case that the extension was necessary to have the legal authority to use certain measures when necessary to save lives, noting that there could be a third wave of the virus in The Bahamas.
“Again I emphasize, we utilize these emergency powers only when necessary,” Minnis advised Parliament.
“Quite often, a number of the emergency measures are not utilized.
“For example, there are no measures in islands like Inagua, Mayaguana, Acklins, Crooked Island and many others.
“When cases spike, governments do not have the liberty of a long period of time to act.
“We do not have weeks, Mr Speaker, to act.
“Instead, governments must act quickly and decisively in order to avoid the spread of this deadly virus.”
Minnis pointed out there are numerous Family Islands with few restrictions due to their respective epidemiology.
He said when cases emerge, the government will respond with appropriate measures based on the advice of health officials.
According to the prime minister, when those measures succeed in lowering cases, restrictions will be reversed, allowing residents to “live a more normal life”.
He underscored that the two-month extension was shorter than some jurisdictions.
For example, Barbados has extended its public state of emergency to March.
“The government needs these powers because of how quickly this virus continues to spread,” he said.
“One highly infectious individual could spread the virus in a closed room of 50 people to nearly every individual in that room.
“The infected people would then go home environment, family members and in that household.
“They may then all go on to spread it to others.
“One case could lead to an outbreak.
“Hundreds and hundreds of people could get sick.”
Minnis added it was highly irresponsible, reckless and unreasonable to suggest that the government should not use emergency powers.
Addressing the opposition, which has not supported recent extensions of the public state of emergency, Minnis said if the government followed the advice of the opposition, the country would be in “dire straits”.
The opposition was absent in the House of Assembly during the last vote to extend the emergency orders to the end of November, and opposition senators opposed the extension in the Upper Chamber.
Meanwhile, Minister of Health Renward Wells, who seconded the resolution, said the number of COVID-19 cases in The Bahamas has been decreasing, but the nation was “not out of the woods”.
Over the last week, there have been fewer than 30 cases.
On Wednesday, there were 13 cases, pushing total cases to 7,482 since mid-March.
Hospitalized cases have trended down to 19, from 122 in October.
Wells said: “That is a remarkable success considering where we were.”
The Bahamas’ recovery rate stands at over 77 percent, with 5,789 recoveries.
The country’s positivity rate dropped below the recommended five percent on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week.
He said: “Our collective efforts are flattening the COVID-19 curve.”
Additionally, the minister advised there were no cases in the Intensive Care Unit at the Rand Memorial Hospital, while one case was in ICU at Doctor’s Hospital.
Another three cases were moderately ill at the hospital.
The Bahamas has not recorded a COVID-19-related death since November 19.
Total deaths from the virus stand at 163.
Wells said the government and Ministry of Health continue to shore up the healthcare sector and have expanded testing and contract tracing over five islands in the last two months.
Yesterday, the prime minister also announced that group exercise will be permitted with immediate effect for groups of 10 on New Providence and Abaco from 5am to 9pm, Monday through Friday, and 5am to 6pm on Saturday and Sunday.
Minnis said the COVID-19 restrictions on Eleuthera have been working and the curve is “starting to bend”.
He advised that a team from the Ministry of Health will travel to Eleuthera today to assess the COVID situation, and based on their assessment the island could “possibly be liberated as of Monday”.
The prime minister said he will make an announcement next week.
He also advised that cases have declined on Exuma, with only three cases reported on Monday.
He said more will be said about the island soon.
Eased restrictions were imposed on both islands following respective surges of cases.
This included a weekday curfew and weekend lockdown, which remain in place.