Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis yesterday apologized for the “stress and duress” caused on Tuesday evening when travelers arriving at Lynden Pindling International Airport from Grand Bahama and Fort Lauderdale were taken into government quarantine by police.
On Tuesday, Minnis announced that Grand Bahama will be placed on a two-week lockdown starting today.
The move was made, he said, to stop the spread of mushrooming COVID-19 cases on that island. The prime minister also said that all domestic flights would cease on Grand Bahama at 6 p.m. on Tuesday.
“And I have been advised that immediately after such an order, there were boats literally lined up at Grand Bahama, especially on the east end, moving throughout the family of islands and also attempting to move to New Providence,” Minnis said in the House of Assembly.
“As a result of that, we were forced, with [the Ministry of] Health’s concurrence, to give orders to the Port Authority to ensure that there is no movement of vessels from Grand Bahama at this particular time to the other Family Islands and New Providence.
“I have also been informed that there was excess passenger load of individuals who wanted to come to New Providence and as a result of that, the health system was essentially overwhelmed.
“The concerns the health professionals had at that time, that individuals and because of the excess numbers of individuals being brought to the capital, many of them would have been lost in the system and subsequently migrate and permeate into the society and throughout the communities and some could have possibly been positive, which could have placed health in a difficult situation in terms of tracking and monitoring.
“As a result of that, the matter was discussed with [the Ministry of] Health and an immediate decision was made to try and obtain as many accommodations as possible and all individuals traveling from Grand Bahama would have been taking to such facility as a temporary quarantine measure, so that health [officials] could have done their work in terms of determining where individuals have to be located and making determinations to ensure that no individuals were infected. And this was all to prevent any form of infection moving out within the community.”
Passengers had not been advised in advance that they would be placed into quarantine upon arrival, he noted.
“Obviously, this would have caused great stress and duress and inconvenience for many Bahamians because they would not have known that such a measure had been taken,” Minnis said.
“But I want to assure them that such a measure was taken to ensure the safety, not only of themselves but the safety and survival of the entire Bahamas and the Bahamian economy.
“And, therefore, for the inconvenience, I would like to apologize to those Bahamians who were definitely inconvenienced in that some may have had accommodations waiting for them.
“They, too, would have been placed in such temporary facilities until proper health investigations were completed. But this was done in the interest of those individuals and in the interest of society to ensure that there was no spread in our society.”
Minnis said the health system was overwhelmed by an excess travel load as Grand Bahama’s borders were set to close.
He said the decision to place arriving passengers in quarantine was made to protect the safety of the country, which is experiencing a surge in COVID-19.
Minnis said that had the travelers not been put into quarantine, the detrimental effects would be seen in two weeks’ time.
“It is important to note that if we are not proactive, and if we were at any point in time to fall behind, then we could run into grave serious situations in that our medical personnel would have eventually become burnt out and unable to function,” he said.
“Our health sector could have run into the possibility of a meltdown.
“[We] could have had episodes of rampant infections.”
COVID-19 cases have continued to soar in the country over the past week, with Grand Bahama emerging as a hotspot.