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PM criticized for keeping Exuma, Eleuthera closed

Exumas and Ragged Island MP Chester Cooper said yesterday that Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis’ decision to keep Exuma closed without explanation, after he reopened several other islands, is “unfair, arbitrary and perverse”.

Senator Clay Sweeting, who was a candidate for the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) in North Eleuthera, said yesterday that the people of Eleuthera were equally perplexed as to why that island remains closed.

During a national address yesterday, Minnis announced the opening of Abaco, Andros, Cat Island and Long Island for normal commercial activity nearly two months after the country shut down in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The islands of Exuma and Eleuthera were notably absent from the list.

Commercial activity was also allowed to resume in the southern Bahamas a few weeks ago.

In his statement, Cooper said, “I call on the competent authority to display some competence and either open Exuma for commercial activity or provide the medical explanation for why Exuma cannot operate as others can.

“In the absence of such an explanation, the prime minister’s decision appears unfair, arbitrary and perverse.”

Sweeting said, “We wonder if the prime minister has lost touch of why these lockdowns were initiated.

“He chastised the people of Eleuthera on a few occasions during his national address, but how long can a society remain locked up?

“This decision seemed to be emotional more than scientific.”

He added, “I, too, call upon the competent authority to explain to the people of Eleuthera with medical facts or otherwise, why the commercial activity cannot open to start to drive our local economy.”

Despite having no cases, Eleuthera and Exuma were excluded from Family Islands allowed to resume commercial activity.

“The people of Exuma are deeply disappointed in the prime minister’s national address today,” Cooper said.

“There was no legitimate reason given for why Exuma cannot resume commercial activity while other Family Islands in the same circumstance are allowed to do so.

“The prime minister appears to be using the emergency powers granted to him to lord over The Bahamas as a dictator without having to explain the nonsensical decisions he is making to the people whom he serves.

“This puppeteering is unacceptable.”

Acklins, Crooked Island, Inagua, Long Cay, Mayaguana, Ragged Island and Rum Cay were allowed to resume normal activity two weeks ago. All the islands allowed to resume activity have had no reported COVID-19 cases.

Eleuthera, San Salvador, Exuma, Bimini, the Berry Islands, Grand Bahama and New Providence remain closed to normal commercial activity, with exceptions.

Bimini, Grand Bahama and New Providence are the only islands with confirmed COVID-19 cases.

Minnis did not explain why Eleuthera or Exuma remain closed.

During his national address yesterday, Minnis expressed disappointment that residents on South Eleuthera took part in a motorcade.

During an address last month, he was critical of Exuma’s adherence to the emergency orders after a man died at a beach party on the island that was not allowed under the orders.

On Friday, Dr. Merceline Dahl-Regis, advisor to the prime minister, noted that some Family Islands have been non-compliant regarding social distancing.

“We can recommend that social distancing measures have not always been consistently followed,” she said.

Dahl-Regis added, “So when the reports don’t report to us and if you keep up not having cases and the reports are that you are not at risk for having new cases, I think it’s just a matter of a short period of time when that recommendation will follow.”

There were 96 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in The Bahamas. Seventy-four cases were on New Providence, 13 on Bimini, eight on Grand Bahama and one on Cat Cay. Eleven people have died.

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Rachel Knowles

Rachel joined The Nassau Guardian in January 2019. Rachel covers national issues. Education: University of Virginia in Charlottesville, BA in Foreign Affairs and Spanish

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