Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Chairman Fred Mitchell should say whether he was in fact dining at a Grand Bahama restaurant when he ought to have been in quarantine after recently returning from the United States, Minister of State for Disaster Preparedness Iram Lewis said yesterday.
But Mitchell refused to comment when asked by The Nassau Guardian whether photos showing him sitting at a table with an individual and wearing his mask under his chin were from yesterday.
The photos were widely shared on social media.
While Mitchell did not speak to questions about the photos, he released a video yesterday saying the FNM “trolls” were in a feeding frenzy and the media had joined the frenzy.
“I do not propose to enter that game and to enter any specific comments beyond what I said at the airport,” he said.
“It is clear why I came here. It is clear the circumstances under which I came here. It is clear what my view is of the law. I claim no special privileges. Apart from that, I have no specific comment.
“The authorities are aware that I am in The Bahamas. This is a Bahamian island. I am a Bahamian legislator and I claim no privileges beyond that. Those are the facts and I urge people to stick to the facts.”
A day earlier, Mitchell told The Guardian he had tested negative for COVID-19 and was in quarantine at a Grand Bahama hotel.
Lewis said, “If he did come from overseas, based on the protocols, he should quarantine for 14 days.”
On Wednesday, the PLP released a video of Mitchell being interviewed by a ZNS news team upon arrival at Grand Bahama International Airport.
In that interview, Mitchell said he was on Grand Bahama to show support for the people of the island a year after Hurricane Dorian.
“…Our leader, Philip Brave Davis, asked me to come here, to get on the ground, to make sure that people know they are not forgotten and the Progressive Liberal Party is still working for the betterment of the society of Grand Bahama and we wish everybody well,” he said, adding that he also wanted to test the procedures for entering The Bahamas.
“It is our view that more tweaking needs to be done with the system.”
Speaking generally about the protocols, Mitchell also questioned why it is necessary for someone with a negative COVID-19 test to be in quarantine.
“It is not necessary on the face of it so these are questions which we as public officials ought to be testing across our systems,” he said.
Additionally, Mitchell said it is an injustice that Family Island MPs are subject to restrictions when visiting their constituencies.
The video of the ZNS interview raised questions as to why Mitchell did not immediately go into quarantine.
The latest emergency powers orders mandate a negative COVID test and 14-day quarantine for all individuals traveling to The Bahamas.
On Wednesday night, when reached by this paper, Mitchell said that he had “followed all the protocols and rules”, noting that he is “still doing so”.
“I landed and there was an interview team and I did an interview,” he said.
Yesterday, Lewis said Mitchell should not have stopped for the interview as he was mandated to enter quarantine upon arrival to The Bahamas.
“If you stop to talk to the media and you’re in quarantine and you’re taking your mask off, then by George, are you really concerned?” he asked.
“Do you really care?”
Free National Movement (FNM) Chairman Carl Culmer said that Mitchell’s conduct shows that “politics and seeking power are the things foremost in his mind”.
“He should not have done the interview and immediately gone into quarantine,” Culmer said.
“That would have been the responsible thing to do. We hope Mitchell learns from his error and is more responsible going forward. Throughout this historic pandemic, the PLP has made conflicting and contradictory statements.
“They have been against strong measures; then for them; then against them again. The PLP’s flip-flops on COVID-19 policies demonstrate the party is still not fit to govern.”
In the video he released yesterday, Mitchell accused the Minnis administration of neglecting Grand Bahama.
“What is also a fact, though, is I am appalled at the state of this city and this island in the one year since Dorian. I listened to the prime minister’s statement with all of the glowing reports of all they have done that has happened,” he said.
“What I know is the city has deteriorated in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic and in the face of Dorian and no recovery or little recovery efforts by the government. I urge the government to get to work fixing this city.”
Mitchell urged PLP supporters and all Bahamians of goodwill to stick to the “facts” regarding the “bad performance of the Free National Movement”.