In GB, mixed views on new restrictions

The last five months have been difficult for Barry Smith, 58, who owns a restaurant and bar as well as vacation rentals on Grand Bahama.

“I’ve actually been closed since February, so it’s been very hard on me,” Smith told The Nassau Guardian.

“I thought I was just getting myself back together and then the government comes and does this.”

The Bahamas fully reopened its borders on July 1, after being closed for more than three months. Grand Bahama has reported 51 new cases of COVID-19 since that reopening. In total, 70 cases have been reported in The Bahamas since July 8, with 21 reported yesterday.

As a result of the resurgence of cases on Grand Bahama, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis announced on Sunday that the island’s domestic and international borders will be closed until further notice. He also ordered the closure of all fish fries on the island and imposed a 7 p.m. to 5 a.m. nightly curfew.

Smith said he finds the new restrictions “frustrating”.

“A lot of people still have not recovered,” he said.

“The tourism industry still hasn’t recovered from [Hurricane] Dorian due to the fact that the hospital is no longer in existence and the airport is really no longer in existence.”

The border closure will make things much worse, according to Smith.

Cheri Wood, a resident of Freeport, believes Minnis made “the right decision” in closing Grand Bahama’s borders, especially to the United States, which leads the world in confirmed cases of COVID-19 with more than 3.7 million cases.

However, Wood took issue with the prime minister’s decision to close all beaches on the island.

“The one thing I don’t agree with is closing the public beaches,” she said.

“People use the beaches for exercise and walking in the morning. I can definitely see banning gatherings of more than even like two people. But, it’s unfortunate because people go out and you’ll see a fisherman or two out fishing on the beach and they’re trying to feed their families.”

Meanwhile, Shanique Lewis-Ferguson, 37, a resident of East Grand Bahama, said while the measures may be tough, they will ultimately benefit the island, which is The Bahamas’ second-largest economy.

“I totally agree with them,” she said.

“It’s just to keep us safe. We need to still be alive, so that we can still thrive and function. So, as far as the curfew being set to 7 p.m., I’m down for that. I’m A-OK with the prime minister’s reasoning for doing so.”

The COVID-19 pandemic marks the second crisis that Grand Bahama has faced within the last 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.

Many Grand Bahamians were already struggling to make ends meet prior to the onset of the pandemic.

For that reason, Sarah Kirkby, a resident of Freeport, opposes a majority of the restrictions being implemented by the prime minister.

“I just think commerce has to start,” Kirkby said.

“As somebody who works for the Children’s Home, we are already going to be inundated with a lot of new children when our home actually reopens. These are not children who are coming from Nassau or the orphans from Abaco.

“These are the children who are coming from our own community that are suffering because their parents can’t afford to feed them in this new COVID era.”

The prime minister has threatened a lockdown, which would start on Friday on the island if the situation continues to deteriorate.

However, Kirby said “a lockdown is not going to solve anything because we’re still going to have to open up at some point”.

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