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Bahamas PM in House of Assembly today; new COVID-19 information, new measures

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November 18, 2020 – Mr. Speaker:

“I wish to provide the House and the country with a general update on the nation’s ongoing efforts to respond to the COVID19 pandemic.

Recently, I announced restrictive measures for mainland Exuma, and mainland Eleuthera, due to exponential increases in new cases of COVID-19 on those islands.

As of yesterday, the 17th of November, there were a total of 99 confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Exuma, and on Eleuthera, a total of 143 confirmed cases. A team from the Ministry of Health made up of members of the contact tracing team and the surveillance unit is currently on the ground on Exuma to assess the COVID-19 situation.

Health officials report that from the analysis of the map of cases, the spread is occurring throughout Exuma. From interviews conducted in the community by the health team, some people are still having gatherings and residents believe this is largely contributing to the spread of COVID-19 on Exuma.

A health team is scheduled to return to Eleuthera next week to complete a follow-up assessment and to determine the impact of the recently imposed restrictive measures on that island. On Grand Bahama, health officials report that the recent increase in cases on the island is due to a recent outbreak at an industrial company.

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The industrial site has been closed, and a meeting is expected to be held this week with the industrial group and their subcontractors to review the analysis of the outbreak at that site.

All positive cases from the site remain in quarantine or isolation. Health officials continue to closely monitor Exuma, Eleuthera and Grand Bahama.

The Ministry of Health will provide a further update at its press briefing. I wish to remind every Family Island and cay, especially those not under curfew, to continue to abide by health protocols, including wearing a mask, adhering to physical distancing and hand washing regularly. Please also avoid large gatherings and social events. As we have seen on other islands, and as domestic and international tourists begin to travel to more Family Islands, there is a greater likelihood of the spread of the virus.

To avoid restrictive measures, I ask every Bahamian, no matter which island, settlement or community you live in, to please follow the well-known health care measures. Wearing a mask is a lifesaving measure just as are antibiotics and medicine for other health challenges and diseases. No responsible person would tell someone with high blood pressure, diabetes or an infection not to take their medicine.

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Just like these medicines, the public health measures help to prevent infection and to save lives. We wear seatbelts while driving and flying for our protection. We should also wear masks and avoid large social gatherings to protect our own health and the health of others.

Let me briefly clarify two frequently asked questions in the public domain. Church services in the sanctuary are permitted during the week on New Providence and Abaco, in accordance with the guidelines established by the Bahamas Christian Council. Memorial services and services in funeral parlors are not permitted on New Providence and Abaco.

Mr. Speaker: Most of the world, including popular tourist destinations, have put in place extensive protocols for tourists and for returning citizens and residents who have travelled overseas. The Bahamas is no different. We are following various international protocols and adjusting them as necessary.

As we are set to receive an increase in international visitors next month, I wish to repeat that everyone traveling into The Bahamas from the U.S. or any other destination must have a valid negative COVID-19 RT-PCR Test.

This Test must be taken no more than five days from the day of travel. We are getting many reports of Bahamians having a COVID-19 RT-PCR test taken in The Bahamas prior to their travel overseas and then attempting to use those results for their Travel Health Visa and return to The Bahamas.

I wish to be very clear and to remind Bahamians and residents travelling overseas that no COVID-19 RT-PCR test taken in The Bahamas is valid for a Travel Health Visa in order to return to The Bahamas.

Mr. Speaker: Everyone, including citizens, residents and visitors, entering The Bahamas must also have the international travel health visa.

These new travel and entry protocols have now gone into effect. These create a two-pronged approach to fight COVID-19, inclusive of a health screening survey and testing. For anyone, including citizens, residents and visitors, staying longer than four nights and five days in the country, a rapid antigen test must be administered on the fifth day of their arrival in The Bahamas. There are places to obtain these tests throughout The Bahamas.

Where there are no private medical facilities, government clinics may be used. In addition to these public health measures, the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Tourism have launched a daily on-line health screening survey. This survey is provided through the travel.gov.bs website.

Food donations for Bahamian families amidst the Covid-19 crisis; courtesy call by Dr. Hubert Minnis, Dr. Hubert Minnis

All individuals, including citizens, residents and visitors, traveling into The Bahamas, will be required to complete this short survey on-line each day for approximately 14 days. The health screening survey is an important part of preventing the spread of COVID 19 and ensuring that The Bahamas is safe for all to enjoy. Participation in this survey is mandatory. Those who fail to comply will be subject to penalties. Citizens, residents and visitors who do not complete the survey will be fined $100 per day or one week in prison.

For visitors, they will also be deported.

The health survey will enable the further monitoring of and response to any possible instances of COVID-19. The Ministry of Health will also be studying the results of the health survey to scientifically test and to evaluate the health protocols.

Mr. Speaker: Very soon, a domestic travel health visa will also be implemented for travel from New Providence, Grand Bahama, Abaco, mainland Exuma, mainland Eleuthera and Bimini to other islands in the country. This does not apply to travel between Exuma and its Cays and Eleuthera and its surrounding islands.

The domestic travel health visa will replace the 14-day quarantine requirement for those traveling from New Providence. The domestic travel health visa, like the international travel health visa, will include the same two-pronged approach to fight COVID-19, inclusive of the daily health screening survey and rapid antigen testing on the fifth day.

This domestic travel health visa must be presented to air and sea carrier operators before boarding an aircraft or marine vessel. If this requirement is breached, the carrier or owner of the vessel is subject to a fine of $2,000 for every passenger travelling without the domestic travel health visa.

Dr. Hubert Minnis, Bahamas Prime Minister, House of Assembly today, November 18, 2020

The passenger will also be subject to a fine of $1,000.

I wish also to note that for the time being, a negative COVID-19 RT-PCR test is required only for travel from New Providence, Grand Bahama and Exuma.

Mr. Speaker: We are fortunate in The Bahamas. Our public health measures have worked and are working. We have brought the virus numbers down in the pandemic’s second wave. However, across North America and Europe cases are surging at a record pace. S

ome are saying that the coming winter will be: “a disaster”, “a dark winter” and “hell.” Hospitalizations are so much on the rise that in some jurisdictions they have run out of hospital beds. Large field hospitals have been erected to take care of the overwhelming number of sick people. Deaths have increased too.

Some jurisdictions that did not or refused to require masks, are now mandating mask wearing, something The Bahamas did at the beginning of the pandemic. Countries that did generally well in the first wave, including in the developed world, are now experiencing an alarming increase in cases.

In response to the surge in the Americas and Europe, countries and jurisdictions are implementing other aggressive restrictions. These range from curfews and selective closures all the way to full national lockdowns for a period of many weeks. What is deeply concerning is that public health experts expect conditions to worsen as it gets colder and more people are indoors.

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It is important that as a people we watch responsible and fact-driven news and keep informed as to what is happening globally. The Bahamas is doing well in its pandemic response. We should be grateful for this. We have battled through the waves, learning what works and what does not. We have refined our policies to allow for as much opening up as possible. And when the conditions call for tightening, we do so only as much as is necessary.

Bahamians should be proud of their country and our health experts and medical personnel. We should be proud that this little Bahamas is fighting through the worst global public health crisis in 100 years.

Mr. Speaker: As a result of the extraordinary spike in cases in North America and Europe – and the ongoing challenges in the Americas as a whole – as Prime Minister, I advise all Bahamians not to travel outside of the country at this time unless for an emergency. There are several reasons why I offer this advice. The record number of cases in the northern countries means there is significant virus transmission there. Travelling to a COVID hotspot could cause you to catch it.

Additionally, as I have mentioned, many countries have overwhelmed hospital systems. If you get sick in a foreign country that is overwhelmed by COVID-19, it might be very difficult to get medical treatment. Additionally, as we saw in the first wave, when virus cases surge countries may quickly change their travel policies.

Borders could shut suddenly with no set time as to when they might re-open. Imagine if someone decides to take a four-day pleasure trip and only carry enough money for that. Then all of a sudden the country closes its borders for months. How would they take care of themselves? How would they afford food and accommodation? When would they be able to come home? It is exceptionally risky to leave The Bahamas at this time. Please, I beg and plead with all Bahamians to stay at home, unless it is absolutely necessary to travel overseas.

American Airlines flight attendant dons masks which are mandatory on all commercial flights

I know there is COVID-fatigue. I know that many people want a break. If someone needs to take a break, they might consider going to one of our Family Islands where travel is permitted, following the public health guidelines.

I ask Bahamians to spend that money in The Bahamas with Bahamian businesses that employ Bahamians. They will have a good time and will help our economy. We should be careful and sensible when it comes to where we travel. We could have a very difficult third wave if we are lax in our behavior and in our travels. If you have to go overseas because of an emergency, please wear a mask, maintain physical distancing, avoid large gatherings, and wash your hands thoroughly and often.

Mr. Speaker: We are progressing through the pandemic. There is increased hope that medical innovations are on the way to bring it to an end. In recent weeks, there were two encouraging announcements in the United States regarding vaccine candidates. Both vaccines demonstrated high levels of success in phase three trials. There is hope that medical frontline workers in the U.S. may begin to be vaccinated as soon as next month.

While we all should be pleased with this success, we must be very realistic with our timelines. It will take time before newly approved vaccines in the developed world become available in the developing world. We are working with the World Health Organization and others to secure vaccines for The Bahamas.

Dr. Carissa F. Etienne, Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and Regional Director for the Americas of the World Health Organization (WHO)

Until that time, we must keep up with our public health measures of mask wearing, physical distancing, and hand washing and sanitizing. These measures work. They are saving lives. The virus has caused restrictions and disruption all over the world. The virus has slowed economic activity at different times and to different degrees all over the world. Despite the difficulty of the times, I am confident that The Bahamas will overcome.

Most of our people largely comply with the public health measures, and I thank them for following the public health measures. Our people are resilient. Our people are hardworking. Our people will get through this together.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been difficult but it has not broken our spirit to thrive and prosper. The truth is that The Bahamas is doing much better than many countries in the world. It is truly sad and deeply unfortunate that some people aggressively opposed the most recent Emergency Orders passed in the House.

The measures in the Orders, which are similar to measures throughout the world, which helped to significantly bring down the number of cases and helped to save lives. On another occasion, I will have much more to say to those who opposed the extension of the emergency orders.

Mr. Speaker: With vaccines emerging, there is light and hope on the horizon. Bahamians should remain focused and stay positive in their outlook. They should ignore those who are endlessly and predictably negative, and those who always complain about The Bahamas, or root for failure. Instead, let us celebrate those who are helping our country to get through this unprecedented time.

Pfizer, BioNtech, University of Queensland in Australia and Moderna are among the companies which have made strides in Covid-19 vaccine research

The Bahamas is a great little country with extraordinary people. Many Bahamians are impressed at how our doctors, nurses and medical professionals have cared for the sick. Many are impressed with how our businesses have helped enforce the public health measures.

I am impressed with the NGOs who partnered with the Government-funded feeding programme to provide food for tens of thousands of Bahamians in need due to the economic fallout of the pandemic, and who are now focusing strictly on the most vulnerable in our communities.

To date, the Government of The Bahamas has spent approximately $18 million dollars on food assistance for our people. I am impressed with the new small business owners, who are turning crisis into opportunity and hope for the future. We have to fight for our future together!

Our future will be better once we keep working together in a spirit of love and unity. May God continue to guide and to bless our Bahamas. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Courtesy of the OPM Communications Unit

Bahamas News

PM Davis: Loftus Roker embodied the ideals of a statesman

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By ERIC ROSE
Bahamas Information Services

Hon. Philip Davis


NASSAU, The Bahamas
– During his remarks at the state funeral for the Hon. A. Loftus Roker, on May 31, 2024, Prime Minister and Minister of Finance the Hon. Philip Davis raised the question as to what was a statesman, as all in attendance reflected on the life and legacy of “one of The Bahamas’ most distinguished public servants.”

“A statesman is not merely a politician; rather, he is one who, with vision and courage, shapes the destiny of his nation for generations to come,” Prime Minister Davis said, during the event held at Christ Church Cathedral.  “Loftus Roker embodied these ideals through every chapter of his remarkable life.”

“Born in the humble surroundings of Delectable Bay, Acklins, Loftus’s journey was one marked by resilience, determination, and a profound commitment to justice and national progress,” he added.  “His parents, farmers who also engaged in fishing, instilled in him the value of education and hard work – an ethos that defined his entire career.”

Prime Minister said that Mr. Roker’s tenure as Minister of National Security and Immigration was characterized by his “bold and transformative” policies.

“His leadership during this pivotal time was not only about enforcing laws but about defending the sovereignty and welfare of our nation,” he noted.  “He was an unapologetic ambassador for our sovereignty, a voice of moral clarity in the cacophony of political discourse. When he spoke, we listened, we paused, and we often re-evaluated our approaches.”

Prime Minister Davis added:  “Beyond his public roles, Mr. Roker was a guardian of our historical integrity and a protector of many insightful political secrets – some of which he took to the grave. His candor was legendary; it was his trademark and his gift to us. He never shied away from telling the truth, however uncomfortable it might be, choosing integrity over convenience every time. I, too, was a recipient of his forthright critiques – a testament to his commitment to the party he loved and the ideals he upheld.”

Presentation of National Flag to family by PM Davis

Prime Minister Davis noted that, reflecting on his “incredible” journey and contributions, they recalled his early foray into politics – “a daring run for office before he was legally old enough to do so.”

“This bold move was not just a youthful transgression, but a declaration of his readiness to serve and lead, setting the stage for his lifelong dedication to our nation’s governance,” he said.

Prime Minister Davis pointed out that it was his profound privilege to stand with Mr. Roker in Pompey Bay, Acklins, in August of 2023, where his Government recognized his lifelong service to The Bahamas by renaming the Acklins Central High School in his honour.

“This act not only commemorated his legacy, but also reconnected it with the soil of his birthplace – tying the past with the present in celebration of a life well-lived,” he stated.

Prime Minister Davis added: “Today, as we honor Loftus Roker, we ask again: What is a statesman? He was a statesman because he was unafraid in his honesty, and unyielding in his principles. He navigated the complexities of leadership with a rare blend of toughness and grace, ensuring his voice was heard, his presence felt, and his vision realized.

“So, what can we learn from Loftus Roker’s approach to politics and life? His life teaches us about the courage to speak the truth, the duty to protect our sovereignty, and the integrity to maintain our moral clarity.  He was a true gentleman, a wise counselor, and a fearless leader.”

Prime Minister Davis said that, as they said farewell to “this stalwart of Bahamian history”, they should remember his indomitable spirit and his profound contributions to their beloved nation.  Mr. Roker’s legacy, he added, will continue to inspire and guide us, reminding us of the impact one dedicated individual can have on the destiny of a nation.

“Again, I ask, who is a statesman? He is Loftus Roker – a man whose life answered that question resoundingly,” Prime Minister Davis said.  “May his story continue to inspire us, and may his wisdom light our paths forward.”

Governor General, HE the Most Hon. Dame Cynthia Pratt

“He was not just a part of our history; he helped to write it,” Prime Minister added.  “As we mourn his passing, we also celebrate the indelible mark he has left on our hearts and our nation.”

He stated that Mr. Roker’s memory will continue to inspire, his deeds will guide future generations, and his vision will always “illuminate the path forward.”

“Farewell, my friend. You have taught us much, and your story will continue to teach future Bahamians about the essence of true leadership,” Prime Minister Davis said.  “Rest assured, the pages of history will remember you; you have written your story well.”

“May the angels lead you into paradise; may the martyrs receive you at your arrival, and lead you to the Holy City Jerusalem,” he added.  “May you rest in peace.”

Prime Minister Davis continued: “On behalf of a grateful nation, my wife Ann-Marie; Deputy Prime Minister, Hon. I. Chester Cooper and his wife ; my cabinet and parliamentary colleagues, and on my own behalf, I express heartfelt condolences to Mrs. Roker, the Roker family and all those who loved him on the passing of this great patriarch.

“May he rest in peace.”

 

(BIS Photos/Patrick Hanna)

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Tourism Minister commends 153 newly certified Lifeguards

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From: Bahamas Information Services

 

NASSAU, The Bahamas —  “The breathtaking beaches and pristine waters are among the top reasons travellers visit our country. As a leading tourism destination that places the highest priority on the safety and security of its guests, lifeguards play a crucial role in the tourism industry of The Bahamas,” said Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Tourism, Investments and Aviation the Hon. Chester Cooper as keynote speaker at the Lifeguard Certification Graduation Ceremony, May 29, 2024 at Fox Hill Community Centre.

“I am delighted to join you this evening to celebrate the outstanding accomplishment of our newly certified lifeguards.

“Tonight marks the successful completion of lifeguard training of 153 candidates total: 134 from New Providence and 19 from Eleuthera. My understanding is that 64 of the graduates are present with us this evening. The others could not come because they have already secured employment on islands outside of New Providence. That is great news!”

He noted that the graduates have all made a substantial investment of time and effort to fully equip themselves to take on the critical role of lifeguard.

They each undertook 30 hours of training led by American Lifeguard Association certified trainer and examiner Lisa Nixon. From this training, they took away the knowledge and skills required to effectively execute their duties as first class lifeguards. In addition to training in lifeguard skills, they completed 40 hours of BahamaHost training which schooled them in the science of gold standard customer service.

In welcoming them aboard ‘Team Tourism,’ he said: “Graduates, you are coming aboard Team Tourism in the best of times, at a time when our tourism industry is experiencing phenomenal growth. Last year, The Bahamas broke all pre-existing records, reaching an historic high of 9.65 million in visitor arrivals.

“You are joining Team Tourism at a time when our tourism industry is in full expansion in resort development and cruise line investments.  Lifeguards are in great demand at the numerous resorts across The Islands of The Bahamas, on the private islands of our cruise line partners, and our major public beaches.”

Deputy Prime Minister Cooper left the graduates with these messages:

“You will be playing a critical role in our nation’s number one industry. We, collectively, have the deepest appreciation and respect for your contribution to the tourism sector, the sector that powers our country’s economy, providing 60 percent of the employment and 50% of the GDP. Your job as lifeguards is in service to our nation, ensuring the highly valued sense of safety among our guests and residents.

“You each already possess deep deposits of the five key characteristics required to be outstanding lifeguards. I humbly ask that you make a commitment to continually cultivate the quality of reliability, sharpen your communication skills, enhance your leadership skills, update your lifeguard skills and be professional at all times.”

He thanked family and friends for their support of the graduates, and those who played a role in assisting the graduates attain certification.

 

(BIS Photos/Kemuel Stubbs)

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Bahamas News

CIBC Caribbean Announces Walk for the Cure 2024 with $66,000 Donation

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Nassau, Bahamas – On the other side of the thousands of supporters who participate in CIBC Caribbean’s fun-filled Walk for the Cure (WFTC) event every October are the cancer care organizations that use the funds raised to provide essential services all year long.

During the bank’s launch of Walk for the Cure 2024, the $66,000 generated during last year’s walk was presented to the Sister Sister Breast Cancer Support Groups of New Providence and Grand Bahama, Cancer Society of The Bahamas, the Cancer Societies of Abaco, Eleuthera, and Grand Bahama, Cancer Association of Grand Bahama and GD Sharing and Caring.

CIBC Caribbean’s Managing Director, Dr. Jacqui Bend, highlighted that the event is “more than just a fundraiser because for many, it is a lifeline of hope.”

“Walk for the Cure provides essential care ranging from scans and exams to support for everyday necessities. Over the past 12 years, we have been privileged to support countless courageous survivors, enhancing the lives and well-being of those battling cancer, their families, and the dedicated organizations that serve them,” said Dr. Bend.

Since its inception, Walk for the Cure has raised nearly four million dollars regionwide, significantly aiding the fight against cancer. In less than five months, WFTC will again span New Providence, Grand Bahama, Abaco, and Eleuthera, the four islands where CIBC Caribbean has a presence in The Bahamas.

GD Sharing and Caring Executive Board Member, Anita Rolle, said, “We express our heartfelt gratitude to CIBC Caribbean for its extraordinary support and commitment to the fight against cancer. It is because of partners like CIBC Caribbean that we continue to make strides in our mission.”

She added, “This donation serves as a testament to the power of collaboration and the impact we can achieve when we come together for a common purpose.”

CIBC Caribbean encourages individuals, families, and corporate teams to join in the meaningful cause. Individuals and groups can register by visiting any CIBC Caribbean branch or by emailing WalkForTheCureBAH@cibcfcib.com. Donations can be made at any CIBC Caribbean branch or through the CIBC Caribbean app.

 

Photo Caption

Standing from left to right are Anita Rolle, GD Sharing and Caring Executive Board Member; Shantell Cox-Hutchinson, Sister Sister Breast Cancer Support Group President; Dr. Jacqui Bend, CIBC Caribbean Managing Director; Susan Roberts, Cancer Society of The Bahamas founder; Glenda Whylly, CIBC Caribbean Senior Manager in the Managing Director’s Office and Dr. Williamson Chea, Cancer Society of The Bahamas President.

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