Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis yesterday tabled an emergency proclamation, which declares a state of public emergency in The Bahamas, and the Emergency Powers (COVID-19) Regulations, 2020, in the House of Assembly but did not immediately move to impose any specific orders outlined in the regulations.
The regulations 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.
Following the House of Assembly, The Nassau Guardian asked Minnis when he intends to move forward with specific orders.
He replied, “You will know.”
Any orders made by the prime minister will have to be promulgated by the governor general.
Opposition Leader Philip Brave Davis yesterday cautioned the government not to “overreach on our civil liberties”.
There are three confirmed cases of COVID-19 in The Bahamas. As he addressed the regulations in the House, Minnis warned that the steps needed to mitigate the impact of the virus may be a difficult one. He noted that the process will require sacrifices from all Bahamians.
“Some of these provisions may be invoked,” Minnis said.
“Some may not.
“We have brought forward these regulations to have the legal powers necessary at hand to respond quickly and decisively to this crisis.
“[W]e must all play a major role in the days and weeks ahead. We must stay united.
“The government is using the full capacity of the law and state to win this fight against the virus.
“Each Bahamian can be part of the battle by rejecting the spirit of negativity that has infected too much of our public conversation.”
He also sought to assure Bahamians that he will do everything he can to win the war against COVID-19.
“The COVID-19 pandemic is a threat not seen in the lifetime of most people alive today,” he said.
“The world is at war with this virus.”
He added, “As prime minister, it is my mission, my determination, my responsibility to save and to protect every life I can during this crisis.
“We are going to defeat this threat.
“[W]e are at war with this virus.
“As prime minister and as a medical doctor, I will lead this fight with all of my strength and determination.
“We will act decisively in order to save lives and lessen the suffering of our people.”
Minnis announced earlier this week 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 are over 215,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in 144 countries, and over 8,700 deaths.