As he expressed concern over large gatherings held over the Easter weekend and the increase in COVID-19 cases last month, Minister of Health Renward Wells said yesterday that Bahamians should know that the prime minister is not afraid to make the hard decisions to control the spread of the virus.
The minister also defended recent campaign events stating that he believes that you are not “supposed to have more than 20 persons gathering together in any one particular place”.
But Wells is incorrect on that point.
The current emergency order prohibits social gatherings in a private residence or facility, except for a wedding, on New Providence, Abaco, Eleuthera and Exuma.
Wells said the country is in a race to vaccinate the population and slow the spread of COVID-19.
“… We are and have been concerned in [the Ministry of] Health and we have been reminding the Bahamian people to adhere to the health protocols, especially during the holiday that we just went through,” Wells said outside Cabinet.
“There was lots and lots of activity; and so we are hoping that at the end of the day, what we saw does not inure to increasing numbers.”
COVID cases nearly doubled in March, with a total of 613 reported cases.
In January, 336 cases were recorded, and 335 cases were recorded in February.
Wells noted that there was quite a bit of political activity over the weekend as well.
“At every stage, we need to be responsible at all times,” Wells said.
“And I can say that I know there has been a lot of political activity. I had an activity on Friday. Mine was a drive-through.
“…And I saw other activities and events with people gathering, political events with people gathering.
“We are asking, even if you are going to be doing campaigning that you do it within the ambit of the health protocols.
“I believe right now you’re not supposed to have more than 20 persons gathering together in any one particular place. Twenty individuals are more than enough to do door-to-door campaigning, but you need to be able to social distance, wear your mask, hand sanitize.
“So, there are opportunities within the ambit of the protocols to be able to have your political activity, but it has to be done in a very responsible manner.”
The Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) opened its Elizabeth Estates constituency office on Monday afternoon with a large crowd of supporters. Little to no social distancing was observed during the event.
Both parties were campaigning throughout New Providence last month.
When asked if health officials offered any advice on campaigning, Wells said, “Health doesn’t necessarily speak to particular events, health speaks more to the protocols that would guard and protect events that take place.
“So whereas you can get together, remember before only 10 persons could have gotten together. We expanded it because of the low numbers.
“We had low numbers for nearly five months, and so we expanded it to 20. And so as we expanded it at the ending part of February, beginning of March, we began to see that uptick.
“We are going to have to look at those measures, those health protocols, and obviously the prime minister is an individual who is never afraid to make hard choices and decisions; and so at the end of the day, we will look at the data that we are seeing.”
Wells continued, “We’re going to assess the data. We’ll be looking at the data. Obviously, the Cabinet of The Bahamas [and] the prime minister, will speak to any potential move in the future as to how the country is going to go.”
COVID cases surged to over 9,100. Health officials have expressed concern about an increase in new cases and hospitalizations on Abaco, Grand Bahama and New Providence.