Foreign affairs offices shutter as coronavirus cases mount

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has now closed offices in London, the United Kingdom, due to the impact of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19.

Last week, it announced the closure of offices in New York and Geneva as the number of cases around the globe continued to rise.

In a press release dated March 15, the ministry said: “Further to its press release of March 13, 2020, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, wishes to inform members of the public that with the growing spread of COVID-19 globally, including a confirmed case now in The Bahamas, the following additional Bahamian overseas offices in London have closed until further notice – The Bahamas High Commission and The Bahamas Tourist Office.

“All other offices are continuing to follow the local protocols in place for their various jurisdictions.

“The heads of those offices have taken steps to protect their staff from exposure to the virus and continue to operate as best as possible. The physical presence of staff continues to be significantly reduced, with only essential staff reporting to work.”

The World Health Organization declared the novel coronavirus, recently named COVID-19, a pandemic last week.

It originated in Wuhan, China, in December, and has since spread to all continents except Antarctica, with major outbreaks in China, South Korea, Iran and Italy.

Up to press time, there were over 153,000 cases in 110 countries with over 5,700 deaths.

Although the majority of deaths were in mainland China, the World Health Organization reported that the epicenter of the disease has moved from China to Europe as “more cases are now being reported every day than were reported in China at the height of its epidemic”.

The United States recently implemented a ban on all inbound travel from Europe and the UK.

Worldwide, health experts, including locally in the Ministry of Health, are encouraging people to stay at home and away from crowds as much as possible to prevent spreading the highly contagious disease.

Around the globe, a number of schools have been closing and some university classes have been moved to online accordingly.

In a separate release also issued yesterday, the ministry specifically addressed international students abroad, urging them to register with their respective local offices and to “be prudent and adhere to the various guidelines and policies implemented by the country or the academic institution where they reside or study”.

It noted that its UK-based offices will still be available online.

“Online access is still available and officers working remotely are constantly monitoring requests from the public,” it said.

“As the travel market constricts because of bans, heads of the offices will do everything possible to shore up their assistance to Bahamians in their jurisdictions overseas.

“If needed, all offices will be closed and provisions put in place for teleworking.

“The Ministry continues to monitor the situation on a constant basis and will immediately take any action that is required to protect staff and prevent the spread of the disease.

“We ask for the co-operation and understanding of the public as we get through these trying times and try to make sure that everyone remains safe.”

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