PM urged to revisit Eleuthera restrictions

The Eleuthera Chamber of Commerce (ECC) is calling on the competent authority, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis, to reverse several COVID-19 emergency measures he announced for Eleuthera on Sunday, contending that those measures will be detrimental to small businesses and could discourage visitor arrivals in the short and long term.

Chamber President Thomas Sands, in a letter sent to Minnis, said that while the Chamber is concerned about rising COVID-19 cases on Eleuthera and agrees that measures must be taken to stem the rise, a more surgical approach should be taken in order not to hurt businesses or the recent uptick in visitor interest in the island.

As of yesterday, a 6 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew came into effect on the island. Commercial activity is only allowed during non-curfew hours.

A weekend lockdown will start at 6 p.m. on Fridays and end at 5 a.m. on Mondays.

Businesses, including grocery stores, restaurants and 

pharmacies, are prohibited from opening during the weekend lockdowns.

All bars and restaurants connected to bars are also closed.

In the letter to the prime minister, Sands said, “The Eleuthera Chamber of Commerce is concerned with the rising number of cases on our island and 

acknowledges that more must be done to curb our current trajectory.

“It was, therefore, expected and welcomed that as a result of our increasing numbers, some restrictions would have to be implemented.

“We would like to point out that we are just entering our peak tourism season and early indicators show that there is an increase in interest in the island. With this in mind, we need to ensure that there is a balanced approach, so that businesses that have been in desperate need of this economic lift do not lose out.

“To this end, we would like the competent authority to revisit the airlift restrictions. Many persons have already booked their holidays and it is distressing for their plans to be interrupted at this stage.”

The Office of the Prime Minister yesterday advised that all domestic flights or sea vessels traveling into or out of Eleuthera are prohibited at this time, except in the case of an emergency. 

Flights approved by the director of civil aviation and all sea vessels approved by the Bahamas Maritime Authority are also exempted.

Sands said visitors have proven to be compliant with COVID-19 restrictions and protocols, and insisted that many Eleuthera business owners have complied with emergency orders and made significant investments in their businesses to keep patrons safe from the virus.

Sands, therefore, called for Minnis to allow for restaurants with bars to operate curbside and outside dining without serving alcohol.

“The majority of businesses have made significant investments to safeguard the public by hiring additional security as well as providing temperature checks and hand sanitizing stations inside their businesses,” he said.

“We have not taken this pandemic lightly. We stand with the government of The Bahamas in its effort to rid our islands of this virus. That being said, we believe that we need to be surgical, deliberate and strategic in our approach if we are going to accomplish our goal of creating and maintaining a COVID-19-free environment while also protecting our economy.

“We are also of the view that weekend lockdowns will be a major deterrent for those considering visiting the island. Our future recovery will certainly be negatively affected by these lockdowns and we believe we can wage war against COVID-19 without going to this extreme, as it will discourage visitor arrivals in the short and long term.”

Sands said the emergency measures have to be revisited “immediately”, especially given that Eleuthera is a major tourist destination.

“We are calling for a balanced approach that communicates to the world that Eleuthera is open for business, but we deem all of the health protocols essential,” he said.

“As it stands, the business community feels that the shutting down of airlift, the closure of restaurants and the weekend lockdowns will cripple a number of small businesses, which remain the backbone of our local economy.”

The prime minister announced the new measures in a national address on Sunday, noting that members of a health team that recently visited the island reported that minimal to no adherence to the public health measures was observed, though residents reported awareness of the measures.

Under the new rules, private and public social gatherings are prohibited.

Indoor church services and in-person classroom instruction are also prohibited; both may occur by virtual means only.

Funerals cannot exceed 10 people at the graveside, excluding the officiant and caretakers.

Weddings cannot exceed 10 people, excluding the officiant.

Receptions and repasts are prohibited. 

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Chester Robards

Chester Robards rejoined The Nassau Guardian in November 2017 as a senior business reporter. He has covered myriad topics and events for The Nassau Guardian. Education: Florida International University, BS in Journalism

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