Several people were caught fleeing mainland Abaco via boat and heading to East End, Grand Bahama, as the tightening of travel restrictions took effect yesterday, according to Chief Superintendent Kenwood Taylor, officer in charge of the Abaco Division.
Taylor told The Nassau Guardian yesterday that because anyone seeking to leave mainland Abaco is now required to present negative results of a RT-PCR test, some sought to trick the system and leave the island via ferry.
“Between McLean’s Town, Grand Cay and Fox Town, we’re doing patrols in those areas, ensuring that persons are not trying to circumvent the emergency order,” Taylor said. “We stopped a few persons this morning attempting to leave the island.”
He added, “Persons are trying to leave by way of vessels and ferry. They normally utilize the ferry. So, we’ve increased our manpower in that area just to ensure that the emergency order is enforced.”
Those caught in the act were given a warning, according to Taylor, who said the people were then turned around and sent back to Abaco.
Due to a slight increase in reported cases on Abaco, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis tightened several COVID-19 restrictions on the island, including changing the island’s curfew to start at 8 p.m., instead of 10 p.m. and making it a requirement that anyone traveling from mainland Abaco be required to take a RT-PCR test.
Taylor said as officers expected, there were several who failed to take advantage of the three-day notice given by the prime minister and waited until the changes took effect.
“Whatever means they have, we’re doing our best to try to deter this type of act and to ensure that persons who don’t have the proper prerequisites remain on mainland Abaco,” Taylor said.
Abaco Island Administrator Terrece Bootle-Laing said while there was mixed reaction to the change in restrictions, there were many who felt there wasn’t enough notice given.
“There was definitely a strong reaction from persons who feel like there wasn’t enough time,” she said.
“There were persons who expected to travel today and they would have reached out to us about not having sufficient time to be able to take the test to leave Abaco, or asked where they can go to take the test. So, we’ve been trying as best as we could to assist those persons who are stranded. There were several funerals here over the weekend, so persons were saying they didn’t come with the expectation to even pay for any test.”
However, the island administrator said given the slight increase in positive COVID-19 cases, the tightening of restrictions was expected.
“Because the numbers kept going up, we didn’t want a situation where it became extremely drastic,” she said.
Bootle-Laing added, “What we were seeing on the ground is Abaconians were becoming more lax when it came to social gatherings, gatherings around the bar side. So, the police have been pressing hard, trying to get persons to adhere, but as our numbers declined, persons became a little more relaxed about how they respond to COVID restrictions.”
On Thursday, after the prime minister mentioned the change to restrictions, the Ministry of Health released a statement saying between January 8 and February 23, the island saw a “gradual increase in cases”.
Clusters of cases originated from Murphy Town Primary School in Central Abaco, a construction site and Marsh Harbour Clinic.
In its statement on February 25, the Ministry of Health said, “Since February 23, there have been 48 positive COVID-19 cases.
The ministry recorded an additional nine cases since then.
In total, Abaco has recorded 255 cases.