We have previously asked the government to “stop doing stupid things” like closing the borders to returning Bahamians and permanent residents on March 27.
Our international borders were closed to Bahamians the day after Bahamasair returned from ferrying 100-plus Cuban medical professionals from Cuba to St. Lucia and while the government continued to permit multiple foreign governments to repatriate their citizens from The Bahamas.
The government said NO to Bahamians who had received medical treatment overseas and who were convalescing abroad.
It said NO to Hurricane Dorian evacuees.
It did not consider requests from Bahamians studying abroad, including some pursuing specialized training for their job; other Bahamians visiting elderly or dying relatives and others returning home following scheduled vacations.
With anger spewing from his lips last week, the prime minister said Bahamians will have to agree to subject themselves to a 14-day quarantine in a government facility guarded by the Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF) upon their return.
Then this newspaper broke a story involving foreign national permanent residents, now revealed to be six members of a family, returning to The Bahamas on a private aircraft. They had not been tested for COVID-19 nor were they required to subject themselves to a 14-day stay in a government quarantine facility.
The price for this shockingly hypocritical decision was 2,500 COVID-19 test swabs that have an invoiced value of $11,250, gifted by the returning permanent residents.
Test kits could have been purchased from the Cayman Islands as Bermuda, Barbados and Jamaica have done and as The Bahamas is doing now.
Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands said he is responsible for his ministry’s approval for the individuals to be landed and subjected to a 14-day quarantine at their residence.
His response was understood to mean that he granted permission for the aircraft’s landing with passengers and for the passengers’ disembarking.
The minister of health has no such authority. Only the prime minister as the competent authority under the emergency regulations and orders could have approved the landing with passengers.
The attorney general’s comments on the matter were confusing and unhelpful.
This approval was in direct conflict with the declaration by the prime minister of standards that Bahamians stranded overseas are required to meet before being permitted to return home.
The so-called breach of the Emergency Order reported by the prime minister, without consequence to the returning permanent residents, rings hollow.
And, notwithstanding what the prime minister said yesterday afternoon, instructions for civil aviation, immigration, customs, health and the police to implement a decision contravening the Emergency Order that closed the border to all incoming passengers more than a month ago would not have been acted upon unless they were transmitted by authorized persons in the government and senior public service hierarchy.
Surely the prime minister’s angry statement in the House of Assembly of his intent to submit Bahamians to a mandatory quarantine at a facility guarded by the RBDF upon their return should have prompted the realization that landing untested permanent residents ahead of citizens would be offensive.
Bahamas Consul General to Miami Linda Treco-Mackey told the media that any Bahamian wanting to return would have to first show proof that they tested negative for COVID-19.
The decision to make an exception to the policy was a poor one. Any attempt to deflect blame and avoid accountability for the decision is irresponsible.
Many are incensed by this turn of events, all the result of an initial bad decision barring Bahamians returning home.
It exposes massive incompetence by an inept government.