Before Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis announced the closure of public beaches yesterday, on a bright, sunny afternoon under clear blue skies, 30-year-old Julius Tinker was at the beach with five others – his girlfriend and her family.
The unprecedented uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 and its effect on The Bahamas seemed miles away.
Tinker said he has been mindful about staying at least six feet away from others outside of friends or family, but that he felt comfortable going to the beach because he’s not really concerned that he may catch the virus.
“Well, my store kind of closed down,” he said.
“I have a printing company and we had to close down because of the quarantine.
“[W]hat else can I do? People aren’t coming to the store, I can’t really do anything, so…”
He added, “I’m not really concerned, to be honest.
“I mean, I’m pretty sure I can beat the flu. It’s just the flu.
“My immune system is strong as hell. I think I’ll be fine.”
Last week, Minnis ordered that a curfew be imposed across the country between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. daily, and that all businesses, with limited exceptions, suspend operations.
Officials have continued urging residents to social distance as much as possible and to stay at home unless it is “absolutely necessary”.
Last night, Minnis extended the curfew to 24 hours.
But earlier in the day, a few small groups were scattered along the shore of some beaches in western New Providence.
A group of a little over a dozen athletes exercised together in close proximity but otherwise, the small groups of families or friends seemed to stick close by each other and far apart from everyone else.
As two small children flanked a woman packing up their belongings, a little girl could be heard yelling at her equally little brother: “Social distancing, that means stay away from me!”
Meanwhile, Tinker, who said he’s “not really a homebody”, said he feels some parts of the emergency order to encourage social distancing are contradictory.
“You can’t stop the virus but I can definitely see why there was a need to stop people from going out,” he said. “But then some of the things don’t really make any sense.
“Let me give you an example: you’re telling people that they can’t go into the store, so, the food stores letting people in one-by-one or the pharmacy is letting people in one-by-one, but then there’s a line of people outside waiting to go in.
“Doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense. So, the intent is there but the follow-through was not very well thought out.”
Vonte Rolle, a 20-year-old construction worker sitting on a bench several yards away, said he is still mostly living life as normal in spite of the emergency order.
Rolle, who was sitting at the opposite end of the bench from his twin brother Vante, said they normally come to the beach to take a break during work.
“I like to keep my distance from people 24/7, so, I don’t really have much to worry about,” Rolle said.
Construction is one of the industries exempted from the emergency order.
But Rolle, who noted that all of his other family members are staying home as officials advised, said he wishes he could stay at home too.
“If I was like everyone else, I had to stay home, I wouldn’t have minded, not at all,” he said.
However, on the other hand, he described the nightly curfew as a “nightmare” that prevents him from going out to bars to “chill”.
According to Rolle, his family does not seem to be worried about the virus or its economic impact, as they’re “always laughing, smiling”.
Joseph David Rodriguez-Ramsey, too, had a carefree attitude.
Ramsey is a senior citizen, which places him in the category of those with the highest risk of dying from the new coronavirus.
He is also a security officer – another exception to the emergency orders – who decided to visit the beach on a whim while on break.
“Don’t matter where you go, if you’re going to get the disease, you’re going to get it,” Ramsey said.
“A lot of people say prevention is cure, yeah, okay, prevention is cure, but if the Lord says it’s time for you to leave with this disease or that disease…”
However, he said he is “comfortable” with the curfew, noting that The Bahamas has experienced something similar in his lifetime.
“In 1949, I was a child and something like this took place with polio,” Ramsey said.
“If anyone could remember polio, they had a curfew about three days on polio, or a week or so.
“I was about seven years old, born in 1942, and I remember that well.”
He added, “I ain’t worrying about this.”
Cheryl Wittimore, who is visiting from Boston, Massachusetts, said she also is not too worried about the virus while in The Bahamas.
“I’m pretty calm being here, to be honest with you,” Wittimore said.
“And you know, when we go back, we’ll just stay in for a couple of weeks. It is a little scary back home, though.
“But it was a preplanned trip and they were still flying so, we went for it.”
Wittimore said she arrived last Thursday and is leaving today.
With all of the travel advisories in place worldwide, she noted that the flight she came on had only about 25 passengers.
Although she said she and her family were staying at Breezes, one of the few hotels on New Providence still in operation, she claimed that hotel staff suggested they may be closing by Wednesday.
But, Wittimore said she is just trying to make the most of her trip while she is here.
“What else can you do?” she asked rhetorically.
“Just go with what you’ve got.”