St. Anne’s MP Brent Symonette said yesterday that the government needs to send daily Bahamasair flights to repatriate Bahamians stuck in South Florida during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hundreds of Bahamian citizens and residents remain trapped overseas after the government closed the border in late-March.
While speaking in the House of Assembly, Symonette said, “We need now to focus on the repatriation flights and people coming in and out because there is a tension building up there where persons want to get back.”
He continued, “We should be flying a Bahamasair flight every day to Miami to pick up Bahamians to bring them back because we need them home and also to be able to take Bahamians to their Family Islands.
“We need to be able to get them back as quickly as possible. I’m sure the prime minister will make sure that that is opened up.”
Symonette added, “The COVID-19 hotline or email or Gmail or WhatsApp or whatever and the Office of the Prime Minister — people are not getting a response in a timely manner. I got people calling me four and six days and they still ain’t hear back. So, we need to improve that, Mr. Prime Minister.”
In response, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis said that Symonette had “valid points”.
“We recognize that there are challenges with the domestic route and we’re in discussion with Bahamasair and other airlines so we can come up with a protocol so you can at least open the domestic airlines,” Minnis said.
During his communication, Minnis noted that a proposed repatriation flight of Bahamians and residents from Fort Lauderdale to The Bahamas that was set for today, was postponed.
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs advised yesterday that the flight had to be postponed due to administrative reasons,” he said.
“A new travel date will be announced soon.
“I recognize that this a great inconvenience for those who were booked to return home.
“The health team responsible for this process has confirmed that valid COVID-19 test results obtained for Friday’s flight will be honored for the next available flight.”
Open the beaches
Symonette noted yesterday that he “was going to stand up this morning and maybe give the member for Killarney a hard time”.
However, instead, Symonette applauded Minnis, who serves as MP for that constituency, for relaxing some restrictions implemented as a result of the pandemic.
He then called for the reopening of all beaches across The Bahamas.
“I’m a simple fella,” Symonette said.
“I put it in simple ways I can understand. So, the entire Bahamas, come Tuesday, is open, open for everything. The only thing they can’t do is go to the beach…
“I grew up in Eleuthera [and] we got a hundred miles of beaches. You go to a beach every day, you wouldn’t see anyone. So I can’t go for that, but that’s a different issue.
“Open the beaches [and] let the people do.”
He also called on the government to improve the ease of doing business in The Bahamas.
“In the years I have been in government, looking into it has never been fast enough,” Symonette said.
“And we have been looking into the digitization and computerization of the government since I was there in the first Ingraham administration and in some cases, we have not reached yet.
“So, we have to speed that up and part of it is just not talking about. Part of it is actually delivering.”