Attorney General Carl Bethel conceded on Friday that the government’s attempt to balance the reopening of the economy “may have gone too far”.
“We have to do what is right to protect the Bahamian people,” he said as he led debate on a resolution to extend the state of emergency to September 30.
“We have to find the correct medium… by which we are able to sustain… life and health, but second of all, economic activity and a move towards an appropriate balance between these two undertakings.
“It must be conceded that the balance may have gone too far towards liberty – if you will, freedom of travel.
“The finding that travel related to Bahamians traveling to South Florida is not an invention in the head of the government. This is, we understand, a conclusion from the medical profession based on their contact tracing, based on all of the information they have received from those who have presented with symptoms.”
Bethel said the spread to other Family Islands was largely, but not entirely, due to travel.
“There were documented instances where there were persons who had traveled to Florida and subsequently traveled to other Family Islands,” he said.
Since the borders fully reopened on July 1, COVID-19 cases have skyrocketed.
Between July 8 and July 23, the country reported 170 cases. On Thursday alone, The Bahamas recorded a staggering 55 cases, a new single-day record. There was a total of 274 cases – 120 on Grand Bahama, 119 on New Providence, 21 on Bimini, four on the Berry Islands, four on Cat Cay, three on Moore’s Island, two on Cat Island and one on Great Guana Cay.
Bethel did not provide statistics on the number of cases that are related to travel. The Ministry of Health has also failed to provide travel details for the vast majority of the new cases.
Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis insisted yesterday that had the government implemented a travel ban on Bahamians, the country would have been in a better position.
Taking a similar tone in the Senate on Friday, Bethel said, “If we were in authoritarian China, we could have easily have said we are open to the world and we will block our citizens from going anywhere, but that’s not The Bahamas. We have a constitutional democracy,” Bethel said.
“…We are where we are because of the nature of our constitutional order and the profound commitment of the Bahamian people of their own fundamental rights and accordingly the fundamental rights of others.”
He said only a vaccine can restore the kind of normalcy residents were accustomed to.
Until then, Bethel urged all Bahamians to protect themselves by wearing their masks and practicing social distancing.
The attorney general added that the government will do the right thing to “save this country” within the limitations of the constitution.
“We will fight and defeat this insidious virus,” he said.
“We will strike the right balance. We will save our country.”