Explaining his decision to allow normal commercial activity to resume on some islands while islands like Exuma and Eleuthera remain closed for business, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis said yesterday he wants to ensure that authorities have the capacity to manage any potential outbreak of COVID-19, and thus chose to take a phased approach to reopening.
“So, if a particular island goes viral or goes left on you, you can manage that,” said Minnis in an interview with ZNS.
“If you open up all and two go viral on you, you have a catastrophe. Your health system might possibly melt down.
“So, whatever we do, we must take into consideration our capacity to manage, our capacity to transport. Yes, they are sterile at this time. But, we must assume that if anything goes wrong, we must be on top of it…”
Individuals who fall ill on Family Islands would have to be transported to New Providence in a single-use “incubation tent” that costs $10,000, according to the prime minister.
Commercial activity resumed as normal on Cat Island, Long Island, Abaco and Andros on Monday, though the legal order giving effect to Minnis’ announcement has not yet been released.
On May 3, the prime minister declared that normal commercial activity is allowed on Ragged Island, Rum Cay, Mayaguana, Inagua, Crooked Island, Acklins and Long Cay.
No case of COVID-19 has been confirmed in any of those islands, whose borders have been closed since late March.
On March 19, the prime minister ordered that non-essential businesses in the country close immediately.
Exuma, Eleuthera, San Salvador and the Berry Islands have also not had any cases, but they remain closed.
Minnis has been making weekly national addresses but has not held a press conference in more than a month.
He said yesterday that his reason for opening Andros at this time is to allow residents to benefit from the historically lucrative crab season.
“Many Androsians depend on crab, the export of crab to New Providence and wherever else,” Minnis said.
“That’s like Christmas for them. That’s their economic engine. So, we had to make a determination. Do we open San Salvador and Eleuthera, cause there was only one additional island that we were going to open. Do we do San Salvador? Do we do Eleuthera or do we allow the Androsians to take advantage of this particular time when their economic engine is roaring?”
Minnis added, “The amount of money that they generate at this particular time [will] take them through to the entire year, so that was the deciding factor there. I could not lose such an opportunity. So, as a result, the decision was made to release Andros and hold back the remainder [of the islands] at this time.”
Some Family Island MPs and residents have raised issues with Minnis’ decision to prohibit the resumption of commercial activity on their islands.
On Monday, North Eleuthera MP Rickey Mackey said, “I’m sure you are aware that once the prime minister has spoken on an issue, we’re guided by that direction.
“I do have some personal concern, especially in Spanish Wells. They have kept to the orders. I’m concerned that while they have adhered to all of the regulations, being locked in so long has created a sense of frustration for them. In fact, I think they went above and beyond in terms of trying to adhere to the orders for COVID-19.”