Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis yesterday insisted that the government is not endangering anyone by not requiring MPs to quarantine after it was revealed that a parliamentary staffer tested positive for COVID-19.
The House of Assembly met with a minimum number of members in attendance – roughly 12 by The Nassau Guardian’s count. A quorum of 10 is needed for the House to meet.
Despite House Speaker Halson Moultrie’s calls for MPs to quarantine and be tested, Minnis assured that the government is not putting anyone at risk and is operating in accordance with the advice of medical professionals.
Minnis was also highly critical of the opposition for its decision not to attend yesterday’s sitting.
He said Opposition Leader Philip Brave Davis should be immune to COVID-19 since he already had the virus.
Davis, however, is still in quarantine, per the emergency orders, after returning from Atlanta, where he was treated for COVID-19.
The World Health Organization (WHO) says there is no evidence that people who recovered from COVID-19 are protected from a second infection.
“It is unfortunate that the leader of the opposition is not here,” Minnis said.
“We all know that the leader of the opposition had COVID and the leader of the opposition has antibodies. So, for all intents and purposes, the leader of the opposition is immune. He is the safest in the country at this time. He is immune and that immunity may last for three to six months.
“We don’t know the duration. But we do know that he is the safest in this country at this time. So, it is unfortunate that he is not here.”
The opposition later issued a statement calling Minnis’ comments divisive.
“The prime minister has a bloody nerve,” Progressive Liberal Party Chairman Fred Mitchell said.
Shortly after the House started, Moultrie said that both he and Chief Clerk David Forbes tested negative for COVID-19.
“For the record, I would like the public to know that we are in compliance with the COVID-19 protocol,” he said.
“As indicated, I requested of the staff as well as myself and recommended to members to take the COVID-19 test.
“I have taken the test yesterday. The result is negative. The clerk has taken the test. The result is negative. And several other members of staff will be taking the test today and we are hoping and praying that their results will also be negative.
“But what, in my estimation, is most important, is that in every endeavor, whether there are risks involved or not, responsible representatives of the people are obligated and obliged to step forward despite the challenges and despite the risks to do the business of the people.”
When Minnis took to his feet, he assured that the government has no intention of placing any Bahamian or legislator in any form of danger.
“I have been in constant communication with the medical professionals and have been assured of the protocols,” Minnis said.
“And as you have stated, we will carry on with the protocols as the medical professionals would have advised us to.
“So, I want the public to know that under no circumstances would this government place any Bahamian in harm’s way or any form of danger.”
On Tuesday, Moultrie recommended that all MPs, who were in the House last week, quarantine and be tested for COVID-19. He said doing otherwise would not set the right example for the public.
However, Attorney General Carl Bethel said that same day that the quarantine of MPs was not necessary because the clerks wore masks “all the time” and MPs wore them “most of the time”.
In a statement, the Cabinet Office said individuals who interacted with the employee without following the preventative measures of wearing a mask, maintaining physical distance and limiting the time spent with the employee to less than 15 minutes will be required to quarantine.
Footage from the House that day depicted a number of members, including Moultrie and Minnis, without their masks on at some points.
On Tuesday, Moultrie had called for the House to take into consideration a resolution to allow the House to meet virtually if necessary, but that did not happen yesterday. The House was suspended until next week Wednesday when members will again be expected to meet in person.