PM: Health system must be prepared for border opening

The government will have to ensure that its health system is prepared for a possible spike in COVID-19 cases as The Bahamas considers reopening its borders to visitors in July, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis said.

“…Tourism is our number one industry,” he said in an interview with ZNS on Wednesday.

“And, therefore, we have to worry about what happens in the United States because as individuals travel here, there is the possibility that we can see an increase. But, what that would mean — taking this in discussion with the health sector — it means that you would have to prepare.

“Should that happen, you’ll have all the infrastructure in place and therefore you could deal with it. [So], you’re never caught off guard. And then, we’d create models and make determinations.

“Okay, when we open, what if we were exposed to five cases? How do we manage? What if we were exposed to 10 cases? How do we manage? Do we have the capacity to deal with it? Because we must always ensure that our health system can accommodate it.”

On Sunday, in a national address, the prime minister announced that the government is eyeing July 1 for the resumption of commercial flights to The Bahamas.

The Bahamian borders were closed on March 27, signaling a dramatic halt to the nation’s tourism industry.

A week earlier, Minister of Tourism Dionisio D’Aguilar warned that in the foreseeable future, there will be no tourists.

In late March, major hotels as well as smaller properties closed, sending thousands of Bahamians home in the face of widespread uncertainty triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The prime minister has indicated that unemployment is expected to soar beyond 30 percent as 25,000 people have either been laid off or have lost income as a result of COVID-19 shutting down major sectors of the economy.

Minnis’ announcement served as an important signal to many in the tourism industry and in other industries who are looking forward to the full opening of the national economy.

On Wednesday, he stressed that the government “will do whatever is necessary to ensure the safety of Bahamians”.

“But, at the same time, we must strike a balance between our economy and health,” he said.

“You must strike that balance. We will not allow our economy to completely collapse nor will we allow citizens to become ill. I think the Ministry of Health is doing an excellent job.

“We have managed to strike that balance. And I think that if Bahamians continue to cooperate, you will find that The Bahamas will be opened soon.”

The Bahamas has recorded 97 cases of COVID-19 and remains in a state of emergency with a 24-hour curfew and weekend lockdowns.

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Jasper Ward

Jasper Ward started at The Nassau Guardian in September 2018. Ward covers a wide range of national and social issues. Education: Goldsmiths, University of London, MA in Race, Media and Social Justice

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