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Ministers go silent on COVID-19 plans

Two days after the government announced the first case of COVID-19 in The Bahamas, Cabinet ministers yesterday declined to give updates on the matter, noting that it will be addressed in the House of Assembly today.

Despite the promise of daily updates, no ministers have provided any substantial updates on the situation since Sunday night when Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis announced the closure of schools and a travel ban on Europe and the UK.

As reporters asked ministers for updates on plans to deal with the potential spread of the coronavirus, several said they could not speak to the matter.

While Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands did speak to reporters, he noted that he could not speak on a majority of the questions, as updates will be given in the House.

“The prime minister would have outlined the plan, and tomorrow in the House of Assembly we will give another update.

“We would like to make sure that the message is not being distorted,” he said.

“Unfortunately, there is so much fake news out there, so much misinformation…that it becomes very careful to ensure that the message is clear, on point and that people are not getting the wrong message.”

He added, “I know that this is very important to the public. And we want to be sure to let the public know that tomorrow morning in the House of Assembly, a number of ministers will speak pointedly and deliberately to the national response to COVID-19.”

Minister of Immigration Elsworth Johnson said only Minnis could speak on the issue.

However, when the prime minister arrived at Cabinet, he declined to speak to the media.

The first confirmed case of COVID-19 in The Bahamas was announced on Sunday at a press conference at the Ministry of Health, where it was revealed that the patient has no recent travel history.

The virus, which can cause fever, cough, shortness of breath and in severe cases pneumonia, originated in Wuhan, China, late last year.

Since being identified, the novel coronavirus has spread to all continents except Antarctica.

As of yesterday, there were nearly 190,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 globally, according to the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center.

At least 7,400 people have died from the virus.

The World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic last week. Shortly after, it announced that the epicenter of the pandemic is now Europe.

Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis announced in a national address that foreigners who have been in the UK or Europe in the past 20 days will not be allowed entry into The Bahamas. Bahamians who have recently visited the region will face quarantine upon entering The Bahamas.

There were at least 5,000 confirmed cases in the United States and 93 deaths.

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Rachel Knowles

Rachel joined The Nassau Guardian in January 2019. Rachel covers national issues. Education: University of Virginia in Charlottesville, BA in Foreign Affairs and Spanish

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