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Emergency powers to extend to Dec. 28

PM says light on horizon, but crisis persists 

Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis gave notice in the House of Assembly last night that he intends to seek Parliament’s approval to extend the state of emergency to December 28.

Without an extension, the state of emergency would expire on November 30.

The Bahamas has been under a state of emergency since the governor general issued a proclamation on March 18, not long after the first COVID-19 case was confirmed in the country.

The initial proclamation expired on June 29 after the government failed to bring a resolution in time to have it extended.

The governor general immediately issued a new proclamation.

Given that The Bahamas constitution provides for extensions up to six months, the extension to the end of December would be the last one the government could secure under the current proclamation.

Health authorities reported on Friday that The Bahamas’ average weekly COVID-19 cases decreased from 98.9 in early-October to 30.7 in early-November.

In the House of Assembly yesterday morning, Minnis said the measures in the emergency orders released during the course of the pandemic, are similar to measures throughout the world, and helped to significantly bring down the number of cases and save lives.

But he indicated the country was not yet beyond the COVID-19 crisis.

While declaring that there is “a light and hope on the horizon”, the prime minister cautioned Bahamians to be “very realistic” in their expectations over COVID-19 vaccine timelines.

“There is hope that medical frontline workers in the US may begin to be vaccinated as soon as next month,” Minnis said.

“While we all should be pleased with this success, we must be very realistic with our timelines. It will take time before newly approved vaccines in the developed world become available in the developing world.

“We are working with the World Health Organization and others to secure vaccines for The Bahamas. Mr. Speaker, the minister of health and his team of health professionals are aggressively working on a national plan, so that we will be prepared whenever the vaccine is available for The Bahamas, that they would’ve been proactive and ready to commence the process.”

On Monday, it was announced that Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine may be nearly 95 percent effective.

The news came about a week after Pfizer announced that its vaccine may be 90 percent effective based on early and incomplete test results.

The Pfizer clinical trial reportedly enrolled nearly 44,000 people in the United States and five other countries. Some participants got the vaccine, while others got placebo shots.

Yesterday, Minnis noted that both vaccines have demonstrated “high levels of success” in phase three trials.

“I want to say to Bahamians, there are a lot of rumors about the vaccines, etc. Be assured that whenever the vaccine is introduced into The Bahamas, I most certainly will be one of the first to receive the vaccine,” he said.

“Until that time, Mr. Speaker, we must keep up with our public health measures of mask wearing, physical distancing, and hand washing and sanitizing.

“These measures work. They are saving lives.”

In October, Minister of Health Renward Wells said the government spent $250,000 in sourcing a COVID-19 vaccine through the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).    

“PAHO will not only assist The Bahamas to obtain the COVID-19 vaccine but seeks to do so for each and every country in the entire Caribbean Community and the region of the Americas,” Wells said.

“No matter what vaccine is recommended by PAHO, or any other organization, Bahamian residents are to be assured that the vaccines will be subject to all appropriate trials approved by notable agencies and will be available to Bahamians who wish to take the vaccine.”

The government has maintained that no one will be forced to take a vaccine.

Since a second wave of the coronavirus started in July, The Bahamas has recorded more than 7,000 new cases and dozens of COVID-related deaths.

The number of hospitalizations exceeded 100 in October and left some healthcare workers worrying about a possible collapse of the public healthcare system as facilities like Princess Margaret Hospital were overcapacity with COVID cases.

“With vaccines emerging, there is light and hope on the horizon,” the prime minister said yesterday. 

“Bahamians should remain focused and stay positive in their outlook. They should ignore those who are endlessly and predictably negative and those who always complain about The Bahamas, or root for failure.

“Instead, let us celebrate those who are helping our country to get through this unprecedented time. The Bahamas is a great little country with extraordinary people. Many Bahamians are impressed at how our doctors, nurses and medical professionals have cared for the sick.”

Minnis added, “Bahamians should be proud of their country and our health experts and medical personnel. We should be proud that this little Bahamas is fighting through the worst global public health crisis in 100 years.” 

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Jasper Ward

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

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