March 31, 2021
Although the major political parties spent the last few weekends campaigning with large crowds on New Providence, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis yesterday warned Bahamians and residents to avoid large gatherings over the Easter weekend, stating that it could set the country back in its fight against COVID-19.
The prime minister also said health officials are conducting assessments on 15 islands where COVID outbreaks were recorded and that “we may take further steps based on the findings”.
Minnis, who was speaking during a short ceremony after the arrival of 33,600 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine obtained through the COVAX Facility, said Bahamians must remain disciplined in order to avoid a “painful third wave”.
“Even as more of us receive the vaccine, we must still adhere to the other lifesaving health measures,” he said.
“It is important that you continue to wear a mask, wash your hands and keep a distance of six feet from others. It is also important to avoid large gatherings.
“Easter weekend is traditionally a time of family gatherings and fellowship, including beach picnics.
“But we are still in the midst of the pandemic. These are not normal times. The COVID-19 case numbers in The Bahamas and around the world make it clear that the pandemic is not over.
“I wish to remind you that under the emergency powers orders, on New Providence and Grand Bahama, groups at all beaches and parks are limited to five people per group.
“COVID Ambassadors will monitor beaches and parks to ensure enforcement of the emergency orders. Large gatherings over this weekend could set the country back.”
However, Minnis and the Free National Movement spent several Saturdays this month campaigning in various communities on New Providence. Members of the Progressive Liberal Party and Democratic National Alliance have also ventured into constituencies on New Providence with large swaths of people in tow.
Asked about this, Minnis said health protocols were being followed.
“But you would have seen them still spacing out somewhat,” he said, defending the campaigning.
“And each and everyone, regardless of the political organization, each and everyone was wearing a mask.”
House Speaker Halson Moultrie yesterday called the continued campaigning amidst the pandemic by the major political parties “reckless”.
The Ministry of Health reported last week that there was a marked increase in new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations on New Providence, Grand Bahama and Abaco. However, there was no link made or inferred that the increase was due to campaigning.
Officials are also worried that Grand Bahama will likely see a third wave of the virus.
Minnis said yesterday that, “Health officials are closely monitoring developments and assessments are being carried out on 15 islands where outbreaks have been recorded.
“Following various assessments, which should come in early next week, we may take further steps based on the findings.”
However, the prime minister said he believes that an increase in restrictions can be avoided.
“I think we have a very efficient and effective medical staff assisted by our PAHO representative,” he said.
“And they have monitored the situation and both I and they are convinced that once we aggressively continue our contact tracing, aggressively isolate those that are infected, and aggressively vaccinate the population as much as possible, I think we can avoid that.
“…I am advised by the health professionals and they would do their data collection, their analysis, and they are guided by the science. They will advise me of the way forward.
“What I can tell you at this point in time is this is Easter and Bahamians love beaches.
“We do not want to discourage them from going on the beach, but I would discourage them to avoid the large mass gathering that I’ve seen just recently and that I’ve seen in the press, as that simple gathering can cause our entire country and economy to go in a tailspin and backward from whence we came.”
Minnis said compliance with the preventative measures could mean a quicker move towards the further reopening of the country.
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