Following Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis’ announcement late yesterday afternoon that he has reversed course on a full seven-day lockdown, Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Deputy Leader Chester Cooper said it has been an unnecessarily chaotic time and expressed satisfaction with Minnis’ decision to give New Providence residents time to prepare.
Minnis had faced tremendous public backlash after he declared on Monday night that the full lockdown was commencing immediately. It had caught many off guard.
Early yesterday, Cooper said the decision to impose the aggressive lockdown of New Providence without prior warning was “especially cruel”.
“What are people to do who simply do not happen to have enough food, water and other basic necessities at home tonight?” he had asked.
“What are essential workers, who were at work [on Monday] when food stores, pharmacies and gas stations were open, to do now? The prime minister should at least have given people a chance to prepare. Even hurricanes come with more warning.”
The lockdown prohibited essential businesses like grocery stores, gas stations and water depots from opening.
But Minnis announced just before 5 p.m. yesterday that those businesses will be allowed to open today and until further notice.
In his latest statement, Cooper said the PLP urges everyone to make their preparations as best they are able, to look out for those who might require assistance and to continue to follow the advice of public health officials.
“I echo our leader, Brave Davis, in his ongoing calls to expand the competent authority so that broader consultation takes place before important decisions are made.”
The Nassau Guardian understands that Cabinet ministers had been unaware of the prime minister’s decision regarding a full seven-day lockdown until he made it in his national address.
The Bahamas has been in a state of emergency since March when the first COVID-19 case was reported.
Since then, the prime minister as the competent authority imposed a series of restrictions, including sporadic lockdowns, nightly curfews and the closure of non-essential businesses.
Minnis has yet to provide an economic plan to manage the far-reaching effects of the pandemic.
Thousands of Bahamians and residents were furloughed or terminated as a result.
Cooper noted the pandemic has led to “suffering caused by the economic hardship”.
He said it is “forcing many people into destitution”.
“The fact that the prime minister still refuses to answer any questions about his decisions and actions is inexcusable,” said Cooper in the earlier statement.
“If he is so confident that what he is doing is right, why not accept questions from members of the press, who have clearly taken the trouble to inform themselves about this pandemic? Simply issuing orders through national addresses is widening the trust deficit and undermining confidence in his authority.
“This is not what the writers of the constitution intended. The prime minister often referred to what is happening in other countries, but every single other country in the world has a better recovery rate than The Bahamas.”
Cooper said The Bahamas must “urgently” learn from other countries.
He said it must make “strenuous effort” to avoid being the worst performing country during the health crisis.
“It did not have to be like this,” he said.
“As we have said repeatedly since April, the science is clear that the key to success is in widespread testing. We are still only testing people with symptoms. This is simply too late as the virus is spread before people develop symptoms.
“A better economic plan to support families, households and businesses must also be implemented.
“Lurching from week to week, and month to month as we have been, is simply not working.”
As of yesterday, 1,424 COVID-19 cases were reported in The Bahamas. An additional death was reported, raising the death count to 20.
Hospitalized cases soared from 32 on Monday to 78 yesterday.
There have been 7,971 tests completed to date, according to health authorities.