As the World Health Organization declared the novel coronavirus a pandemic, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis yesterday appointed a National Coordination Committee on COVID-19 (NCCC).
The committee is co-chaired by Chief Medical Officer Dr. Pearl McMillian and Executive Director of the Organization for Responsible Governance Matt Aubry, the Cabinet Office said in a statement.
“In addition to serving as a coordination and steering committee, the NCCC will also engage with the COVID-19 multi-governmental agency task force to implement decisions of The Bahamas government, recommend policies to the Cabinet and provide sector and society impact analysis and feedback to Cabinet, as applicable,” the statement said.
Following a tour of the New Providence Ecology Park yesterday, Minnis said he is satisfied with efforts taken in The Bahamas thus far in response to the disease.
“I am very satisfied,” he said.
“As a matter of fact, I have had a meeting, just this morning you would have heard me spoken earlier that we were putting together a national committee.
“I’ve met with that national committee this morning and they would have put their proposals, ideas, et cetera.
“We’d have discussed the coronavirus extensively and I would report to my Cabinet colleagues at 3 o’clock today about what had transpired with the discussion with the national committee and some suggestions that they put forth.
“Again, their goal and objective again is like ours, to maintain the coronavirus-free environment, to reassure with the populace and those visiting our shores that they are safe but must still take the necessary precautions with hand washing and whatever else, and be assured that the government is doing all it can and using all of our resources necessary to ensure that we remain at that status.”
Committee members from the government include: Marlon Johnson, acting financial secretary; David Davis, permanent secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister; Joy Jibrilu, director general of the Ministry of Tourism; and Marcellus Taylor, director of education.
Committee members from civil society include: John Rolle, governor of the Central Bank of The Bahamas; Bishop Delton Fernander, president of the Bahamas Christian Council; Denise Lewis-Johnson, chair of the Bahamas Maritime Authority; Ed Fields, director of the Downtown Nassau Partnership; Khrystle Rutherford-Ferguson, chair of the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce; Carlton Russell, president of the Bahamas Hotel and Tourism Association; Dr. Charles Diggiss, president of Doctors Hospital Health System; and Bernard Evans, president of the National Congress of Trade Unions.
Committee members from the port include: Mike Maura, regional director of Global Ports, and chair, Arawak Port Development; Vernice Walkine, president and CEO of Nassau Airport Development (NAD); and Sherry Brooks, director of government relations at the Grand Bahama Container Port.
Minnis urged Bahamians to “continue with their normal life”.
“I again assure the Bahamian populace that there are no cases of coronavirus recorded here, and they must continue with their normal life,” he said.
“However, still take all the necessary precautions in terms of the hygienic.”
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest, meanwhile, encouraged Bahamians to be financially prudent due to the “uncertain times” brought about by the illness.
“Right now, we’re living in very uncertain times, as the World Health Organization just announced [COVID-19] as a pandemic,” he said.
“We don’t know what that’s going to mean in the long term, and so certainly we ought to be prudent about our expenditure, ensure that we engage in those things that are going to bring us long-term benefits – whether it is construction, whether it is ensuring that we have the medicines and the food and the other necessary items that we need in order to ensure that we can sustain ourselves for the medium to long term.”
In recent weeks, the government announced a travel ban of China, Italy, Iran and South Korea amid the global spread of COVID-19, which originated in Wuhan, China, in late December.
Yesterday, Jamaican officials reported the country’s second case of COVID-19.
Turnquest added, “[W]e are doing what we can from our side in terms of providing incentives and concessions.
“We are devising an economic plan, as the prime minister has instructed us, to provide support to the economy in the event that there is a sharp downturn, which we hope will not come.
“But we will be prepared to do what we can with the resources that we have to be able to help cushion any significant loss in the economy.”
However, the prime minister also noted that price gouging – which has been reported internationally as some merchants raised prices on items such as hand sanitizers which are high in demand – will not be tolerated.
“We’re monitoring that, and if we detect any, we’ll deal with that appropriately by the law but we will not tolerate it, absolutely not,” he said.