Members of Parliament have varying views over whether there is a need to extend the state of emergency beyond September 30.
Tall Pines MP Don Saunders, deputy speaker of the House, said he would support a two-month extension of the emergency period, which permits the prime minister to order lockdowns, impose curfews and close the borders.
“I think we have to be careful not to let our guards down,” Saunders told The Nassau Guardian.
“We have to be concerned about the hospital capacity. We have to be concerned about children going back to school even on a [hybrid model]. So, I think it’s important that we monitor that for at least another month or two because we don’t want our [COVID] numbers all of a sudden hyping up again and persons not being able to get the medical care that they need, because the hospital is over extended and other healthcare facilities are overextended.
“So, yes, another two months wouldn’t hurt us. I think that gives us a good opportunity to finish our analysis and to keep our schools, our communities and our families safe. I know it’s an inconvenience to a lot businesses and a lot of people, but I always tell people that persons’ health come first.”
On September 16, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis tabled a resolution which proposes an extension of the state of emergency until the end of October. The emergency orders are currently slated to end at the end of the month.
The state of emergency has been in effect since March when The Bahamas reported its first COVID-19 cases and the governor general declared a state of emergency.
The Bahamas has been under a curfew since March 20.
Pineridge MP Frederick McAlpine said he won’t support an extension until “emphasis” is placed on the economy.
“Somehow we have not been able to get the economy going,” he said.
“If we continue down this path, we’re about to cause, what I would call in my own opinion, a collapse of the economy. You can’t continue to have people without jobs for seven months unable to pay their bills, their mortgages.”
McAlpine said “it’s a crying shame” that the prime minister has yet to provide the public with the government’s economic plan to address the effects of the pandemic.
“The latest we should’ve had an economic plan was by June,” he said.
“We’re now heading into October and still have no plan. What government does that?”
The House of Assembly will debate the resolution to extend the orders when it meets on Wednesday.
Roughly one third of MPs were present at its last meeting after a parliamentary staffer tested positive for COVID-19.
MICAL MP Miriam Emmanuel was not one of those MPs.
When called for comment on whether she supports an extension, Emmanuel told The Guardian, “I will not give a comment because I was not in the House and so I would not be eligible to speak. Only those were the House would be eligible to speak.”
Central and South Abaco MP James Albury expressed support for the extension.
He said he understood “the controversy around it”.
“Quite frankly, I don’t believe we’re out of the woods yet,” Albury said.
“The situation is so fluid. I think the prime minister and his health team need to be able to make quick decisions and implement policies quickly in a way that if we went through the more traditional process, quite frankly, I don’t think it would be speedy enough to deal with these issues that we’re going through.”
Last week, former Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands, who serves as Elizabeth MP, said he will not support the extension.
He said, given the number of COVID-19 cases, the country is not a “whole lot better off” as a result.
The Bahamas has reported more than 3,000 cases since March.