Grand Bahama residents preparing for lockdown

Andrew Loveitt, 64, a swim coach, was applying drywall to his hurricane ravaged house in Pine Bay, Grand Bahama, when he heard Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis announce a two-week lockdown for the island.

“It was expected,” he told The Nassau Guardian.

“Once the borders were opened on July 1, people from Grand Bahama started to travel to the states. It was clear this was going to occur. I get a mistake was made in opening up the borders and allowing people to travel.”

Loveitt said the lockdown is not ideal “but it’s something we have to do”.

“They did it in Bimini and it worked in Bimini,” he said.

“A few people have made it very difficult for the island.”

The island was classified as a COVID-19 hotspot yesterday with 61 cases reported since July 8.

Grand Bahama reported a record-breaking 20 cases on Monday alone.

For this reason, the prime minister yesterday imposed an island-wide lockdown which will start on Thursday at 7 p.m. and end on August 7 at 5 a.m., noting that food vouchers will be available for roughly 14,000 Grand Bahama residents.

“This measure is absolutely necessary in order to save and to protect the lives of the residents of Grand Bahama,” Minnis said in an address outside the Churchill Building.

He noted that the Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF) has formed a perimeter around the island to prevent boats from leaving or entering.

Llewellyn Simmons, 63, a resident of Freeport, does not support the way the prime minister is going about the lockdown.

“I don’t think the way the lockdown was put in place is really a complete lockdown,” he said.

“There are still workers who can go out there and work and move around and everything.”

Simmons said there should be a five-day lockdown where individuals are not permitted to leave their homes.

“After five days, for two days, he could let everyone go out and get their essential things that they need and then lock it down for another five days,” he said.

“With this other lockdown, people can always use the excuse that they’re going to go for water or something.”

The COVID-19 pandemic marks the second crisis that Grand Bahama has faced in the past year.

The island was ravaged by Hurricane Dorian, a deadly Category 5 storm, which caused more than $3.5 billion in damage and loss when it hit the northern Bahamas in September.

Tim Aylen, 50, a resident of Lucaya, said his wedding photography business has “collapsed” as a result of the twin crises.

“It’s something you never imagined could happen to a business,” he said.

“I thought I would age out of the business or technology would take over and I would not be as technology savvy as the up-and-comer. But, how could you ever imagine that a pandemic would come along and destroy your business?”

Aylen said a decline in cases on Grand Bahama is the only chance his business has at recovery.

“I certainly hope the lockdown works but this two weeks is going to hurt,” he said.

“Not so much my business because my business has just fallen completely. But, I feel for the other people, the shopkeepers who were trying to get back and make a little bit of money.”

Like many other Grand Bahamians, Derek Carroll, 54, a resident of Holmes Rock, is preparing for the lockdown by stocking up on groceries.

“I’m an essential worker too so I can go out on Saturdays,” Carroll said.

“But, I have a lot of dry goods and stuff just in case my grandkids need anything because some of them are living with me. Everything is okay.”

The resurgence of COVID-19 on Grand Bahama occurred on July 8 and came after the island reported no new cases for 63 days.

It also came just weeks after the government decided to reopen The Bahamas’ borders to visitors after being shut for more than three months.

In a national address on Sunday, the prime minister said many of the recent cases on the island were traced to Bahamians returning to The Bahamas, noting that the spike “coincided with the reinstitution of international flights and passenger sea transport”.

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