“PR nightmare”: Symonette blasts beach closures

“PR nightmare”: Symonette blasts beach closures
St. Anne's MP Brent Symonette (file photo)

MP tells FNM colleagues: “I am free, ain’t coming back”

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — St. Anne’s MP Brent Symonette argued today the closure of the beaches over the Independence holiday weekend represents a “public relations nightmare”.

He said tourists should be advised on the restrictions on beaches on certain dates, noting the government enticed visitors to vacation in The Bahamas as a safe haven from the coronavirus.

Symonette underscored there has not been a full explanation as to why the decision was made, notwithstanding the prime minister’s impassioned plea for residents to make a personal sacrifice.

“I’m a little at nerves edge as why the virus will not find the beach on Eleuthera or the beach on Acklins, but it’ll find the beach in Gand Bahama and Nassau,” he said.

“You banned it in Nassau. You haven’t banned it anywhere else.

To objections from government members, Symonette, a backbencher, said: “Fine, you have all the answers. That’s why you all are over there. I have the right to speak over here. I am free, ain’t coming back.”

He opined that scores of residents will travel domestically to Family islands to use beaches where they will remain open over the holiday weekend.

He said it has been great to observe children and adults swimming and enjoying themselves.

“So, from the 1stof July to 10pm of Thursday night it’s perfectly okay to go on the beach, but 10pm — when I was younger, I use to go on the beach at 10 o’clock at night too, I am sure we all did when we were a lot younger — so that’s why I question this morning, I am not comfortable we have a full explanation as to why the beaches on those islands are closed for that weekend,” Symonette said.

“I will add my conjecture to it right now.”

He asked whether the government was prepared to allow the masses suffer for the few, insisting that for the most part people have been disciplined and followed the guidelines of the competent authority.

“Are we saying we cannot police the beaches, is that what we are really saying. I hope not,” he added.

He added: “I still think we need a better explanation as to why these beaches are closed on these islands.”

The St Anne’s MP said while the government has adjusted the regulations and emergency orders, it must continue to correct course and “get back on course”.

Extension

Symonette also said the government ought to take a second look at extending the 8pm closure of restaurants and the kitchen to 9pm to allow for more sittings, underscoring it is the summer.

He said while patrons, under the current regulations, go to restaurants well ahead of the 8pm time, they do not have to return home until 10pm.

He said restaurant workers could be made essential workers, to allow them to return home after 10pm.

“We have been progressing opening the country and no increase in COVID,” the MP said.

In response, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis said the 9pm to 5am curfew was extended by an and in recognition of the needs of residents and businesses.

He also said there may be instances where people have not completed their meal at restaurants, but in those cases a restaurant owner can contact the police and get authorization for those patrons to travel home beyond the curfew period.

Symonette said must restaurants are under the impression they must close their kitchens at 8pm.

He also raised concern with capacity requirements on restaurant.

Restaurants must operate at 50 percent capacity indoors.

“Half of all of this is making sure we make a profit,” Symonette said.

“I know we don’t like that bad word, but unless people are making a profit, we are not going to hire more people, we are not going to open up the economy, and we are not going to get people off the National Insurance and I think that is important.”