PM defends decision to close borders to Bahamians

Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis yesterday defended the government’s decision to close the country’s borders to Bahamians, and also the decision to close liquor stores during the national state of emergency.

Minnis said that while it is unfortunate that some Bahamians are stuck outside the country, the decision was for the best.

“There are hot spots outside of our territorial boundaries and it was essential for us to close our airports, so that we may minimize the importation of COVID-19 and subsequently a spread throughout our society,” he said.

“It’s unfortunate that there are Bahamians who are presently outside [the country] and as the airports are closed, they cannot return. However, decisions are made in the best interest of the country.”

He made the comments during debate on a resolution to approve the continuance of the Emergency Powers (COVID-19) Regulations made on March 17 and the Emergency Powers (COVID-19) Orders made on March 23.

The resolution allows for the state of emergency and orders to continue until April 8.

On concerns raised in some quarters about the closure of liquor stores, the prime minister said medical professionals advised that they remain closed.

“Medical personnel feel that at this point in time, all resources should be utilized to fight the common enemy that we face, and that is COVID,” he said.

“It’s not unusual for a lot of resources during a given time [to be] diverted in the emergency room to deal with the effects of alcohol and ramifications.

“They feel this should not be the time when alcohol should be open, so that their resources would be diverted to the emergency room to deal with the effects of alcohol as opposed to consolidating it all for [COVID-19].”

Speaking in Parliament, the prime minister also said that while he understands measures put in place to contain COVID-19 are difficult ones, the decision to extend a 24-hour curfew and lockdown for The Bahamas is necessary.

“We are trying our best to ensure that we minimize any form of death and severe illness in our society,” Minnis said.

He added, “I had extensive discussion with the medical team and the professionals and it was their opinion that they needed additional time to complete their data collection, their analysis and interpretation, so as to make determination as to direct the way forward.”

Minnis said that with the use of geographic information systems (GIS) mapping of cases, the government may be able to impose curfews or lockdowns only in certain “hot spots”.

So far, there are 14 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in The Bahamas.

On Friday, the government shut down the country’s borders for all incoming people, including Bahamian citizens and residents, due to the surge in COVID-19 cases in the United States.

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