One hundred and eighty-three Bahamian citizens and residents returned home on Friday via two Bahamasair special flights to Nassau and Freeport.
Since March 27, they had been prevented from returning to The Bahamas.
After it became common knowledge that three aircraft and several yachts, carrying passengers unconnected to the six permanent resident donors of COVID-19 test swabs, were landed in New Providence, Grand Bahama and Cat Island since the closure of the border to arriving passengers, the prime minister relented from his uncompromising position.
He advised that Bahamians would be permitted to return subject to a negative COVID-19 test result and a 14-day quarantine in a government facility to be guarded by the RBDF.
After it was revealed that those individuals previously landed were authorized to self-quarantine at home, the mandatory quarantine for Bahamians became optional.
Last evening, the prime minister said that individuals had been landed by Civil Aviation authorities. He did not accept responsibility for that which only he, as the Competent Authority, could approve.
Now that Dr. Duane Sands has been disposed of, a new Emergency Order No. 3 empowers Civil Aviation authorities to land passengers. Increasingly it appears that the offending breach of protocol requiring the minister of health to resign was a convenient rouse to be rid of the minister.
The prime minister provided two other pieces of startling information. First, that a COVID-19 positive individual, traveling with three others, was on the special Bahamasair flight which brought some 95 passengers from Florida to Freeport and Nassau.
He provided no information on this serious, egregious breach. And he provided no information on the 12 missing contacts of confirmed COVID-19 patients.
Then, he informed that the opening of web shops was not authorized by the relaxation of business restrictions put in place one week ago on May 4. He gave no advice on why proprietors were not forced to comply with the intent of the Emergency Orders.
Most returnees were thankful that the limbo in which they had been placed for the past six weeks had finally ended.
Several had complimentary things to say about the Bahamas Consulate General in Miami, Florida, which had risen to the occasion organizing assistance to stranded nationals and later coordinating COVID-19 testing and managing reservations and schedules for the special flights.
Upon landing, they were confused by orders to shut their cell phone off and to store them in baggage.
Others were disturbed by their strained reception in Nassau where uniformed police officers met them on the tarmac and ordered them onto buses.
Others still became fearful because they were not told their destination when they left the airport in a convoy under police escort and worried that they may not have an option of quarantining at home.
Upon arrival at the government quarantine facility here in Nassau at the Breezes all-inclusive hotel on Cable Beach, returnees were interviewed by Ministry of Health teams.
Some availed themselves of an option offered to quarantine at home. Social media reports by some who remained at the hotel suggest that they were unhappy with arrangements made for their room and board.
Passengers disembarking in Freeport had more favorable comments on arrangements put in place to receive and transport them to the government quarantine facility at the Our Lucaya Hotel, a respite for many from what Freeport living has become since Dorian.
Why confirmed COVID-19 patients are being permitted to self-quarantine in their homes but Bahamians returnees who have tested negative for COVID-19 are being quarantined in a government facility at public expense is not clear to us.
Bahamians testing negative for the disease before their return home on Saturday pose a far smaller threat to our public health than do the confirmed COVID-19 patients who are permitted to convalesce at home.
Further, they are presumably also a smaller threat to public health than are the 12 contacts of confirmed COVID-19 patients whose whereabouts we were advised by the chief medical officer last week, are unknown to health authorities.