Super Value owner Rupert Roberts said the government is being disgusting by refusing to release roughly 230,000 masks he ordered before it implemented a ban on the importation of masks.
Roberts is hoping to hand the masks out to staff.
The ban was announced by Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis on April 9.
On Saturday, while speaking about the first wave of the pandemic, which spanned from March until June, Roberts told The Nassau Guardian, “I heard that the Ministry of Health was short of masks. They didn’t have masks and they didn’t have masks to put on government workers and in government buildings and for the police force and the defense force and so on.
“So, they didn’t have thousands of masks. I had 130,000, so I offered the Ministry of Health 100,000; not gave, but sold it to them.”
He said he has a friend who owns a jet freighter who was bringing masks in from China.
At the time, according to Roberts, the prices of masks were “doubling every day” as masks were “scarce” globally.
As a result, he said, then Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands asked him to secure 100,000 surgical masks and 130,000 N-95 masks.
“I think the first 100,000 came through and we paid duty on them,” Roberts said.
“And then, President [Donald] Trump came up with this no export of masks in excess of 30,000, so we had to bring in the 130,000 in 30,000 lots. So, they get in and, of course then, the minister of health is changed.
“So, the Ministry of Health says they don’t need any masks. I said, ‘Fine. You ordered the masks, but if you don’t need them, that’s fine. That’s okay.’”
He said the masks have been at Tropical Shipping for four months.
“The competent authority won’t let us get them although these were ordered long before they were banned,” he said.
“You know, we’ve had these 230,000 masks there while this country was suffering a shortage. I said to Tropical, ‘Well, let’s ship them back out.’
“But, Tropical said, ‘No, no, you cannot ship these masks out because the country needs them so badly.’
“I said, ‘Well, they right there. They don’t seem to need them.’
“The competent authority won’t let us get the masks and they won’t tell us why we can’t have them.”
Roberts said he has written to Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis 10 times.
“We’ve begged the government for our masks and I hope the government hasn’t hit the stage of confiscation,” he said.
“It just seems as though they’re doing all kind of borderline things. So, if it comes to confiscation, then I hope some of the members of Cabinet will stand up for us.
“I hope somebody in opposition will stand up for us because this is doing wrong, this is going too far. But then, it’s politics.”
Roberts said his staff is “up in arms” because the masks are being held by the government.
He said his company will “soon be out of masks”.
“I tried to help the country and I got kicked in the teeth,” Roberts said.