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MPs commend Minnis for relaxing lockdown, but some say initial decision was flawed

Several backbenchers in the House of Assembly yesterday expressed dismay with Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis’ handling of a previously announced seven-day lockdown for New Providence.

However, others said they supported Minnis and his decision, as the intent was to save lives.

The lockdown, which prevented essential businesses like water depots, food stores and gas stations from opening, was announced on Monday night and reversed on Tuesday afternoon amid widespread criticism.

Golden Isles MP Vaughn Miller, who was previously a member of the Free National Movement before resigning last year, told The Nassau Guardian, “It came off as extremely insensitive, uncaring, unpatriotic and un-Bahamian. I couldn’t believe he did it.

“I didn’t think he would do it and I couldn’t believe he actually did it. In particular, because of the elderly in our country, because of the children, because we’re already six months into this pandemic and families are struggling.

“There’s a new level of poverty in our country and you have to take all of this in mind. You’re coming out of a lockdown weekend and you’re going right into a week-long strict lockdown? It made no sense, absolutely no sense whatsoever. I was shocked he actually did that.”

Elizabeth Estates MP Dr. Duane Sands, who served as minister of health until May, said a lockdown that is properly executed and properly planned with “an endgame is a reasonable tool”.

A lockdown without those things has the “potential for disaster”, according to Sands.

“I think we saw a scenario that was less than perfection in its execution,” he said.

When asked if he thought the seven-day lockdown was properly planned, Sands replied, “No.”

He said the prime minister’s decision to reverse the lockdown was “the right decision”. 

“I think he should be commended for listening to the advice,” Sands said.

Bains and Grants Town MP Travis Robinson said he doesn’t believe Minnis was negligent in his decision to impose the lockdown.

Asked if he supported the lockdown, he replied, “I fully support it in the spirit of what it had hoped to achieve, which was to save lives and bring down or to slow down the number of cases that we were experiencing on a daily basis. 

“I stand with the prime minister unequivocally. I support his decision and I support him and the Free National Movement because, at the end of the day, we have to make decisions.

“In a time like this, we have no time to panic and to wish that we had made a decision when had the opportunity to do so.”

Fort Charlotte MP Mark Humes said Minnis made a decision that was “in the best interest of the Bahamian people and for the public interest”.

“As a leader and understanding the intent, we have to support the intent of what he was doing,” Humes said.

The prime minister’s lockdown came as thousands of people across The Bahamas are unemployed as a result of the pandemic.

The national unemployment rate has already exceeded 40 percent, according to Director of Labour John Pinder.

Tens of thousands of people have become dependent on the National Food Distribution Task Force for groceries and meals amid a worsening health and economic crisis.

Despite this, West Grand Bahama and Bimini MP Pakesia Parker-Edgecombe said she doesn’t believe Minnis had an intent “to marginalize Bahamians”.

“With that said, I do understand the opinions expressed by individuals and hope that all matters of concerns are taken into account overall,” she said.

Pineridge MP Frederick McAlpine said the government needs to find a way “to walk and chew gum”.

He said it needs to understand that COVID-19 and the Bahamian economy must find a way to coexist.

“You can’t just keep locking down the country,” McAlpine said.

“It’s not good for the economy. I understand we are also concerned about people’s health but we have to find a way because whereas we are preserving lives, we are also destroying the economy.” 

Centreville MP Reece Chipman added, “I am not in support of a full lockdown because I don’t think there is sufficient information and sufficient research or data for me to support that.”

He said surveys can help the government assess the COVID-19 situation in The Bahamas and determine whether lockdowns are necessary. 

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Jasper Ward

Jasper Ward started at The Nassau Guardian in September 2018. Ward covers a wide range of national and social issues. Education: Goldsmiths, University of London, MA in Race, Media and Social Justice

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