Symonette: House should not have met

St. Anne’s MP Brent Symonette said yesterday that the decision to hold a sitting of the House of Assembly after a staffer tested positive for COVID-19 was not the right one and added that it “sends the wrong message” to the public when officials are trying to enforce social distancing.

House Speaker Halson Moultrie confirmed on Tuesday that an employee of Parliament tested positive and noted that the employee came into contact with every single member of Parliament who was present when the House met on September 9.

“I think the issue is that it’s badly handled and sends the wrong message to the people of The Bahamas when you’re trying to enforce social distancing,” Symonette said when called for comment.

Symonette added, “I’m sure the House can meet two weeks from now and pass the resolution and resolve the problem. I think the world would understand. Parliament shouldn’t meet during these circumstances.

“Also, there shouldn’t be any law that is so urgent that needs to be passed when they had from July to September that the House didn’t meet.” 

Symonette did not attend Parliament yesterday.

In a statement on Tuesday, the Cabinet Office said individuals who interacted with the employee, without following the preventative measures of wearing a mask, maintaining physical distance and limiting the time spent with the employee to less than 15 minutes, will be required to quarantine.

Yesterday, Symonette told The Nassau Guardian, “This is the first time I’ve heard a 15 minute rule, unless I’m missing something. Now, as far as I know about COVID, I can be in someone’s company for a minute and you can give it to me and I can give it to you or the molecules can move from me to you.

“So, why is there a 15 minute rule for members of Parliament that I’ve never seen before? That’s the number one issue.”

Symonette questioned whether parliamentary staff members were being tested.

“I understand the person involved, [their] job sometimes was to hand out documents to members, so [they] would’ve come within six feet of every member of Parliament in the last week, I would imagine,” he said.

“I wouldn’t know because I wasn’t there the whole time. I don’t remember [them] coming within six feet of me. Potentially, all MPs may have been infected.”

When the House met yesterday morning, Moultrie said he has mandated that his staff take COVID-19 tests.

He said both he and Chief Clerk of the House David Forbes tested negative for the virus. MPs are not required to be tested, however, Moultrie has recommended that they do so.

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Jasper Ward

Jasper Ward started at The Nassau Guardian in September 2018. Ward covers a wide range of national and social issues. Education: Goldsmiths, University of London, MA in Race, Media and Social Justice

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