With more than 1,800 new COVID-19 cases confirmed this month, St. Anne’s MP Brent Symonette yesterday expressed support for the state of emergency to be extended beyond August 13.
“I think with those numbers, there has to be some sort of powers vested in the prime minister to make sure he can issue the various orders under the emergency orders,” Symonette said while pointing to the 88 new cases confirmed on Wednesday.
“So, coupled with that, there has to be a draconian enforcement of the emergency orders. The two of them go hand and hand. …You reported, I think, a funeral at Woodlawn and some incidents which are clearly in breach of the emergency orders. It probably would’ve been better in hindsight, 20/20, to have drafted a law way back when. But the Emergency Powers Act is one that has stood the test of time in many different Commonwealth countries.”
Symonette has been volunteering at Loyola Hall in recent weeks assisting residents who are getting vaccinated.
He said if the COVID numbers decrease between now and August 13, then it won’t be necessary to call an emergency session of Parliament, which is on recess until September, to extend the state of emergency.
But, according to Symonette, if the cases continue on their current path, it will be necessary “to have some form of emergency powers”.
“We should have emergency powers in place,” he said when called for comment.
“Politically, it might not be the most comfortable decision he can make. But we talk about the safety of the country and the science of the country, the science of the matter and the safety and the saving of lives — these are words we’re always using in different speeches and I think it’s not something the public will like but I think at some point it’s necessary.
“Like he said, it’s about you. It’s about all of us and I don’t think a lot of the public has been complying with the orders.”
The state of emergency, which has been in place since March 2020, is set to expire next month.
The state of emergency allows the prime minister to implement a number of measures to mitigate the virus, including curfews, lockdowns, the closure of certain businesses, social distancing, and mask-wearing.
Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis, Attorney General Carl Bethel, and Minister of Health Renward Wells had stated in recent months that it is the intention of the government to end the state of emergency on August 13 when it expires.
Wells indicated this week that an extension is not off the table.
“Today is Cabinet, perhaps those issues will come up and we will be able to inform and update the Bahamian people,” he told reporters on Tuesday.