Bahamas Prime Minister: “We are in a surge”
FULL STATEMENT from April 1, 2020 National Update:
I wanted to provide an update on where we are today in our ongoing battle against the health and economic challenges posed by COVID-19. As expected, we are in a surge.
There is community spread. I want to announce that there are six new cases.
This means that as of today, April 1st, 2020, there are 21 COVID-19 positive cases identified: 18 on New Providence and three on Grand Bahama.
The six new cases are all on New Providence. One of the new cases has a link to Grand Bahama. There are 1,500 diagnostic test kits in-country.
Aggressive contact tracing continues. Health officials are following cases day by-day. Through GIS mapping we have identified hotspots on New Providence and we have undertaken GIS mapping on Grand Bahama to identify hotspots there. We will be vigorously stepping-up enforcement of the curfew in hot spots.
This situation is constantly changing and evolving. So, we have to adapt and to act quickly and decisively.
The information we give the public will also change and develop. We are working hard to give the public
and the media the timeliest and most accurate information possible.
I want to address this afternoon the death of an individual who was transported from Bimini to New Providence.
First, I want to offer condolences to the family of the deceased, including to the Minister of Financial Services, Trade and Industry and Immigration, Elsworth Johnson.
We know that this is a very painful time for the family. The Minister of Health and other health officials have spoken publicly on the matter.
The COVID-19 test came back positive. The family has been informed. Contact tracing has begun.
We pray for the deceased and the individual’s family members during this very difficult time.
Let me speak to the difficult and challenging issue of community spread.
Our best weapon in this battle remains physical distancing and Bahamians and residents staying at home. I want to thank all of those who are following the various regulations and guidelines.
You are saving lives and you are protecting your health and the health of others. The Royal Bahamas Police Force continues to enforce the regulations. Those who fail to follow the Orders and regulations are risking their health and the health of others.
They are distracting the police from other essential duties and they may be prosecuted for failing to abide by the regulations, which are designed to save lives.
I want to speak very directly to all Family Island residents today.
The Orders and regulations we put in place apply to all of The Bahamas.
I am asking Family Island residents to stay at home except for the exemptions within the Orders.
Please do not go wandering from settlement to settlement visiting friends and family.
We have to prevent any possible spread of COVID-19 on every island and cay.
Except for emergency personnel, there is to be no domestic travel within the country by plane or boat.
Those who do not abide by this may place other islands and cays and Bahamians in danger. They also risk prosecution. No resident of New Providence or Grand Bahama should travel to any Family Island or Cay.
Likewise, no one from the Family Islands or cays should travel to another island or cay, including New Providence and Grand Bahama.
Our greatest tool in the fight against this virus is following the public health advice to
be physically distant from one another. There is no vaccine for this virus as yet.
There is no cure.
The life in our Family Islands is very communal. We live close together. We visit each
other. We share common struggles and take care of each other. But, during this crisis Family Islanders
must make changes. Only go out to purchase necessities.
Only go out if you are an essential services worker. Do not assume that it is not in your community because no one has tested positive yet.
Every Bahamian and resident in every Family Island must take the same aggressive distancing measures being taken in the more populated islands of New Providence and Grand Bahama.
Our advice and the emergency order are for the whole Bahamas. Family Islanders, as your Prime Minister I need you to comply with these Orders. I do not want outbreaks in our beautiful island communities.
It is largely up to you to determine what happens in your communities.
As much as possible, stay at home!
We are all at risk from COVID-19 no matter our age, what neighborhood we are in or what island we are on. This deadly and dangerous virus that discriminates against no one; including young people.
Stay at home! Stay at home!
We are in daily contact with the Family Islands to assess the situation on the ground.
Let me talk about our medical and health care professionals who are putting themselves at risk to save our lives and to help the sick to recover.
Every medical professional available is being called in to help. On the frontlines of our citizen army
fighting COVID-19 are doctors, nurses, medical technologists, hospital and clinic workers and others.
Let me be very clear and to the point, so far more than 50 healthcare workers have
had to be taken out of the system because of exposure to the virus.
On behalf of all of us, I thank every health care workers throughout our country. I know firsthand what they are going through.
I understand the stress and the anxiety. But I want them to know that we will win this battle and that we are getting them every resource possible to win this fight.
I am extremely proud and grateful to my medical colleagues who are working around the clock and under tremendous pressure. I also have two children who are medical doctors and who are on the frontline.
Let me say this to my colleagues and to the Bahamian people, I will do everything in my power to protect the health and lives of our health care professionals and workers.
Every health care professional fighting COVID-19 and protecting our general healthcare a part of the flesh and blood of our community. As Prime Minister, as a medical doctor, and as a father, it is my solemn duty to protect the flesh and blood and the well-being of our health care heroes.
They must be protected for their own sake and for ours. We are working to balance COVID-19 care with regular healthcare.
Toward this end, I wish to announce an Amendment of Order 5 of S. I. No. 27 of 2020. EMERGENCY POWERS (COVID 19) REGULATIONS, 2020 EMERGENCY POWERS (COVID 19) (NO. 2) (AMENDMENT) (NO. 4) ORDER, 2020
In exercise of the powers conferred on me by the Emergency Powers (Covid-19) Regulations, 2020, HEREBY make the following Order- Subparagraph (1) (b) of Order 5 of the Emergency Powers (COVID-19) (No. 2) Order, 2020 is amended by the insertion immediately after the words “medical facilities, of the words – “provided that – (i) All private medical and dental practices shall eliminate all routine
and non-emergency physical encounters with patients, and shall as best as possible provide all routine and non-emergency services using virtual or remote means excluding private renal dialysis facilities; and
(ii) Where physical interaction is a necessity due to a medical emergency there must be strict adherence to physical distancing and hygienic requirements”.
To add to our citizen army and to help free some of our health care professionals for other duties, we are asking for volunteers to help the country in this hour of need.
A Volunteer Hotline is being set up to register individuals who are interested in contributing to this fight against COVID19. We will soon provide more details on this.
I also want to provide an update on various medical facilities.
The Modular Unit at the Princess Margaret Hospital will be able to accommodate four additional patients with in a purposed built controlled environment. The facility has positive to negative air flow with 20 air exchanges per hour of fresh air.
The air is filtered throughout. Intake air and exhausted air is filtered and also treated with ultraviolet light irradiation as further protection to ensure viral and bacterial kill. Similarly, the South Beach Clinic is currently being modified in the same way to accommodate 10 patients in order to accommodate a surge.
There are also protocols at the various facilities for the intake of suspect cases. We face two crises.
One is the Covid-19 pandemic that has claimed tens of thousands of lives around the world and that will claim many more. The other is the economic crisis it has caused that will persist after the virus is beaten back.
Joblessness is on the rise across the globe and here at home.
The economic crisis is severe for The Bahamas. Our economy is based on tourism.
The world has closed its borders. We have closed our borders. Countries have had to do this to prevent the spread of a virus that has the potential to kill many people.
With no tourists coming to our shores now and into the foreseeable future, tough times are here and ahead of us. This is one of the greatest challenges to the world economy in most of our lifetimes.
We do not know how long this will last. But we do know that we will overcome this virus.
As we had to assume great authority through the Emergency Powers Act, my Government will have to make major changes to our economy. Tourism, which has carried us so well for so long, is in a state of suspension due to the virus.
When it comes back The Bahamas we must be ready to welcome the world to our shores. However, no one knows when that will be.
As a people we have to be ready to shift how we operate. We have to be ready for generational changes to the economic structure of our commonwealth.
On the crisis assistance front, the Minister of Finance has announced two rounds of relief measures to help those hurt by the virus.
These measures amount to tens of millions of dollars in various types of assistance.
I urge everyone in need to make use of the initiatives that include food assistance, unemployment benefits, loans, and tax credits and deferrals. We will also shortly be making an announcement about rental assistance.
To find ways to stimulate our economy now and in order to create a masterplan to rebuild our economy and to promote our social development, I will convene a high-level group of economic and other experts to provide concrete ideas and plans to the Government of The Bahamas.
This group will help us to help chart the way forward for our national, economic and social recovery.
I will make a further announcement on this in due course.
Even as we fight this health battle, we must be prepared for the economic battle ahead. Let me make some additional announcements. We are working on supermarket schedule to reduce the number of people on lines and in stores. This will be released by the end of the week.
Tonight at 8pm the Ministry of Health will host a Virtual Town Hall focusing on the impact of COVID-19 on Mental Health, Senior Citizens and Persons with Disabilities.
The public is invited to participate by sending in their questions via the Ministry of Health’s Facebook page or WhatsApping questions to 828-1265 or call in at 5027382.
This will be the first in a series of Virtual Town Halls that will allow members of the public to ask questions directly to health officials. Let me just say to every Bahamian and resident: Seven months ago Dorian was hitting Abaco, and soon to be over Grand Bahama.
Now, Covid-19 has struck, sending death and devastation around the world. We will only overcome through unity of purpose and God’s guidance and grace.
Let us pray for both.
My life as a doctor and as a surgeon has taught me about the need to maintain a strong head, a strong spirit and strong hands in a crisis.
But I also need your prayers, your help as a part of our citizen army, your ideas for our future and your continued adherence to the emergency orders and regulations on every island in our country.
We will only win these battles together.
From the Office of the Prime Minister, The Bahamas
Universal Healthcare Coverage Cited as a Big-Ticket Item at 76th World Health Assembly in Geneva
#TheBahamas, May 23, 2023 – Health & Wellness Minister the Honourable Dr. Michael R. Darville, in a pre-assembly interview, has forecast that Non-Communicable Diseases, Universal Healthcare Coverage, areas associated with the pandemic and Anti-microbial Resistance are some of the hot-ticket items on this year’s agenda at the 76th World Health Assembly. Minister Darville who is heading a delegation from The Bahamas comprised of representatives of the Ministry of Health & Wellness, the Public Hospitals Authority and the National Health Insurance Authority cited universal healthcare coverage as a major pillar of the Geneva discussions as the intention is to put it in place globally by the year 2030. He said the government equates the provision of healthcare services with equity across the Bahamas as a priority. This he said will become even more evident when the Parliament moves on new legislation to repeal the old National Health Insurance Act.
The Opening session of the 76th World Health Assembly takes place on Sunday May 21st in Geneva, Switzerland. This year’s Assembly is being held under the theme Saving lives, driving health for all, and it comes as the WHO celebrates its 75th anniversary.
The World Health Assembly (WHA) is the decision-making body of WHO. It is attended by delegations from all WHO Member States and focuses on a specific health agenda prepared by the Executive Board. The main functions of the World Health Assembly are to determine the policies of the Organization, appoint the Director-General, supervise financial policies, and review and approve the proposed programme budget. The Health Assembly is held annually in Geneva, Switzerland.
Press Release: Ministry of Health & Wellness
DPM says Grand Bahama “is on the move”
By ROBYN ADDERLEY, BIS
#TheBahamas, May 23, 2023 – Grand Bahama “is on the move” said Deputy Prime Minister, the Hon. Chester Cooper when asked about the Grand Lucayan prior to the Cabinet Meeting held in Freeport on Tuesday, May 16, 2023.
The Minister of Tourism, Investments, and Aviation said, “We have taken the position that we want to validate proof of funding and we are in the process of going through that at the moment. The government knows how important the property is to Grand Bahama and its economy, as well as to the nation, and they are working diligently and when they get to a point, an announcement will be made.”
Questioned on the status of the Grand Bahama International Airport, the Deputy Prime Minister said they are about to begin demolition. “There are very complex agreements that are currently being prepared. The lawyers are working diligently.”
With a foreign lender, a foreign airport manager and a consortium of five entities that make up the local partners, there are a number of agreements being made. Consultants are currently working on the ground, and the Deputy Prime Minister said he will meet with them next Tuesday to view the designs.
“The reality is that the work has continued since we entered the MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) in March. The process is we entered the MOU, we are now completing the full set of legal agreements and designs. We’re going to begin the demolition work shortly. Renovation of the Air Traffic Control Tower is going to begin first and then we’ll go into full scale construction.”
The 2025 deadline for the completion of the airport, is still in place with all parties committed.
Deputy Prime Minister Cooper then turned his attention to airlift to the island stating that they have been “very deliberate and very focused” having engaged Bahamasair for flights from Raleigh, North Carolina; and Sunwing. It is hoped that these flights can become year-round.
With Sunwing recently acquired by WestJet, he said, “this is going to be an overall positive for The Bahamas and Grand Bahama. WestJet has always been a good partner with direct services from Toronto and Montreal, as well as Calgary.” They are currently working to get more airlift to Grand Bahama.
Other airlines include Frontier, Silver and Bahamasair for the possibility of additional routes. For more airlift, he said, they are also speaking with Air Canada which flies from Charlotte and Miami.
“The challenge on the island at the moment is the number of hotel rooms and we’re hoping we can get Breakers Cay open in a short period of time to support the airlift.
“Suffice to say, all of our airline partners are standing by and they are ready to support the island of Grand Bahama. The product is strong, our overall numbers is just 96 percent of 2019, only four percent behind 2019 let’s put it that way; our cruise numbers are up 188 percent compared to 2019.
“So, Grand Bahama is on the move. There’s excitement about the product. People now realize there is a significant level of things to do in East End and West End, and of course in Freeport, and this is attracting a significant level of interest from stakeholders and, potentially, new partners,” he said.
Additionally, the government will make a statement on the $300 million development in West Grand Bahama and it is expected that more information will be forthcoming in the coming weeks.
When asked about commercial banks going into the Family Islands that currently have no banks, the Deputy Prime Minister said the issue has been a concern of the government for some time. As the large Canadian banks have been withdrawing from the islands, the money transfer agencies have been engaged to work with existing banks to provide the service.
“I anticipate the bank involved is going to make an announcement soon in relation to Exuma and Long Island mission; and we hope that as a result of the successful implementation of these plans in Exuma and Long Island, that other islands will benefit in due course,” he said.
BAIC Facilitates First-Ever Perfume-Making Workshop
By BETTY VEDRINE, BIS
#NASSAU, The Bahamas, May 23, 2023 – The Bahamas Agricultural and Industrial Corporation (BAIC), has made a significant step in its quest to expand and innovate the industrial sector and offer Bahamians another avenue for entrepreneurship.
On Wednesday, 18th May, the corporation took a leap into the unknown but exciting world of perfume-making when a workshop was facilitated at their headquarters on Old Trail Road.
The one-day workshop brought together artisans and craftspersons from the world of essential oil production, candle-making, aromatherapy and other crafts. Bringing his expertise to The Bahamas, world-renowned perfume maker and skincare specialist, Edwin Bruce, facilitated the event. Executive Chairman of BAIC, Leroy Major, called the workshop a ‘groundbreaking’ event for the country.
“The perfume industry is a $38.2 billion one that The Bahamas has not tapped into and so after doing some research and finding out that castor oil, which is produced locally, is a component of perfume, we decided to try our hand at perfume making,” he said.
“We invited Mr. Bruce, out of Jamaica, to assist us as he is well-versed in this area. We plan to also facilitate workshops in some of the other islands shortly.”
Mr. Bruce said he was elated to share his knowledge with the Bahamian people given his affection for the country.
During the three-hour event, participants learned about the various layers of scent, the use of raw materials for scents, how to blend scents, the philosophy and olfactory psychology and also the language behind scents. At the end of the workshop, participants were able to compose and bottle their own personalized fragrances.
(BIS Photos/Betty Vedrine)
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