Opposition Leader Philip Brave Davis last night accused the government of overreaching in the measures it outlined in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Davis’ response came after Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis announced that as of today a curfew will be imposed across the country and all businesses, with limited exceptions, will suspend operations for a period of 11 days.
The curfew will be imposed each night from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. with such exception as may be approved by the commissioner of police.
The prime minister’s announcement was made at 5 p.m., after many businesses were closed for the day.
The order comes into effect 9 a.m. today.
At a press conference, Davis said: “We are aware of the announcement made by the prime minister a few hours ago with respect to an emergency order introducing measures that will affect the lives of all Bahamians in ways unknown in any of our lifetimes.
“We are concerned that this was all done in a heated rush, and may have unintended consequences adverse to the public.”
Davis added, “It is a matter of regret that the prime minister promulgated these matters that we have not had an opportunity to lend our voice [to] and to provide our views on the appropriate initiatives.
“As we see it, the measures are inherently contradictory and may pose more challenges than providing solutions to the ultimate goal of protecting our people.”
He said, “Many of these regulations are a clear overreach with no benefit.”
In an earlier statement, the opposition had urged the government to exercise caution, due care and attention, “in using the powers which it has arrogated unto itself during this special health emergency”.
Davis said in that statement, “Our party intends to watch and monitor carefully the exercise of these extraordinary powers to be sure that these powers are used for the benefit of the Bahamian people.”
Minnis tabled the relevant regulations in the House of Assembly on Wednesday, along with a proclamation by the governor general declaring a public state of emergency, as the number of COVID-19 cases in the country rose to three.
The regulations tabled by Minnis grant wide-ranging powers to the prime minister that will allow for, among other things, the detention of people infected with COVID-19 or those who traveled to infected places; the possible prohibition of assembly of two or more people in any specific area; the requisition of any building, ship or aircraft; a curfew; social distancing and isolation orders; restricted access to specified areas; and the prohibition of publishing or reposting false stories.
But Davis had suggested such orders may be unnecessary as he said the public was already compliant with recommendations made by the government in relation to the novel coronavirus.
He said the public does not need to be “coerced into following directives”.
“I, however, note that to date, there has been no reported case of non-compliance by Bahamians to any guideline and public service announcement issued by the government on COVID-19…” Davis said.
“In light of this, the opposition cautions the government not to overreach on our civil liberties.”
COVID-19 has spread to all continents except Antarctica since it emerged in Wuhan, China, in late December.
Up to press time there were over 245,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and over 10,000 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.