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‘A bad call’

A Bahamasair aircraft prepares to land on New Providence last Friday, bringing in Bahamian citizens and residents who had been stranded in the United States due to the closure of Bahamian borders. Bahamasair also conducted a flight to Grand Bahama from Florida on Friday. BIS

Bahamas Consul General in Miami Linda Treco-Mackey said yesterday that a man who traveled from Fort Lauderdale to Grand Bahama on Bahamasair on Friday after knowingly contracting COVID-19 was “irresponsible” and “not considerate of his own fellow Bahamians”.

“I have to take responsibility for the consulate because they (Bahamasair) [sought] approval from someone at the consulate and the person at the consulate was not at the level to give that approval, but they did,” said Treco-Mackey, whose office organized the return of 183 Bahamians after the prime minister agreed to reopen the border to them.

“So, I guess Bahamasair assumed it was okay because the persons said it was okay.”

She said it was a “bad judgment call”.

“They weren’t on the list to travel but somebody made a decision, which was out of their framework to do,” she said.

“Because they knew that they were tested, they assumed that they were okay to travel and went over the manifest and approved them to travel. It was an unintentional mistake that has cost us. So, all our work, we feel like it was in vain.”

Treco-Mackey continued, “I know that Bahamasair printed the boarding tickets but they did not allow travel until someone from the consulate, not the proper person, but someone from the consulate told them, ‘It was okay. They were tested.’

“They would not have known that they [had] tested positive. They went outside the manifest sheet and decided to look into the list of persons who were tested which was not something they were approved to do. But, things happened.”

The COVID-positive passenger was among 51 people who disembarked on Grand Bahama.

He was traveling with three others, according to Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis.

On Sunday, Minnis said all four individuals have been retested and were awaiting results.

Bahamasair conducted two flights on Friday — a morning flight, which came from Fort Lauderdale to New Providence, and an afternoon flight, which came from Fort Lauderdale, stopped in Grand Bahama to let passengers off, then traveled to New Providence.

Treco-Mackey was on the first flight.

Asked if she thinks the consulate could have avoided the incident had she stayed in Florida, Treco-Mackey replied, “Anything is possible. I mean, I don’t know. I’m always a phone call away. [Y]ou know, hindsight is always 20/20, but we don’t know what the circumstances would’ve been or if it would’ve changed.

“Unfortunately, that’s just how life is. Once an incident has passed, you really can’t say if you could’ve prevented it.”

Treco-Mackey said yesterday that the passenger was in the first group of Bahamians to be tested in Florida.

She said he had his results “over a week ago”.

“It was really a big disappointment to see someone be so irresponsible and not considerate of his own fellow Bahamians, who he was traveling with, by coming to the airport,” Treco-Mackey told The Guardian.

“None of us could’ve anticipated him showing up. He was called by the doctor the night before. He was called by our staff the night before. He was rescheduled to be retested in Florida this week.

“So, that means nobody could’ve anticipated him showing up and we couldn’t reveal his name for privacy reasons. So, we were protecting him but he wasn’t protecting us.”

When asked how authorities became aware that he was on the flight, she replied, “What happened is, when they realized that more persons landed on Grand Bahama than they knew were supposed to travel to Grand Bahama, the question was: who are these people and why are they coming in on the flight?

“Then, the Ministry of Health got involved and they already had the list of persons who were tested and the results were sent to them.”

She said the COVID-positive man and his family were “immediately flagged”.

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr. Delon Brennen said yesterday the ministry was “still ascertaining possible contacts” connected to the incident.

He said the ministry hopes to determine “the likelihood of exposure given the use of PPE (personal protective equipment) in-flight”.

Bahamasair Chairman Tommy Turnquest said the airline will continue to ensure that its aircraft are properly sanitized, especially in light of the incident.

“We have an enhanced cleaning in place now, which will continue,” Turnquest said.

“I mean, we’ve looked at all sorts of different models that have been used around the aviation industry. We have done deep cleaning.” 

Officials from the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport declined to comment on the incident.

Staff Reporter at The Nassau Guardian
Jasper Ward started at The Nassau Guardian in September 2018. Ward covers a wide range of national and social issues.
Education: Goldsmith, University of London, MA in Race, Media and Social Justice
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