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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

50th Independence Logo & Theme Competition September 27th 2022

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#TheBahamas, September 29, 2022 – With plans already in the works to mark the country’s 50th Anniversary of Independence, officials at the 50th Independence Secretariat are working to create an extraordinary and inclusive celebration for all Bahamians. Over the next several days, talented Bahamian artists will have the opportunity to participate in the country’s historic Golden Jubilee through the launch of the National Logo and Theme Concept Competition, designed to showcase the work of creative graphic designers and artists. The challenge: to create the logo and develop a theme that will be used across all 50th Independence celebrations and win cash prizes.

“We want Bahamians to not only enjoy the 50th Independence as spectators and citizens, but we thought it equally important for Bahamians especially those in the creative field to have the chance to be a part of that history as well” explained Leslia Miller-Brice, Chairman of the Independence Secretariat.

To participate, design hopefuls must complete the online entry, and release forms using the QR Codes provided on the Celebrate Bahamas social media pages. There, they will also be able to upload mockups of their various concepts. The nationwide search will allow each participant to enter as many ideas as they’d like into the respective competitions. Those submissions will then be narrowed down to ten.

“We’ve commissioned a talented panel of graphic designers and communications specialists to help us choose the best of the best,” Miller-Brice noted.

Once selected, the public will be given the chance to vote for their favorite concepts via the secretariat’s Celebrate Bahamas social media pages with the top three logo concepts fetching a prize of $1000, $500, and $250 respectively and the top three theme concepts with a prize of $500, $250, $100 . The competitions are now officially open and will close on October 10th 2022 at 11:59 pm.

“We are very excited to see our people really showcase their interpretations of what the 50th Anniversary of Independence means to them. We are looking for interesting use of symbolism and creativity in the overall concept” Miller-Brice said.

About Logo & Theme Competitions

  • Open to all Bahamian citizens
  • More than one submission is allowed
  • Open to all ages

○    If under 18, Legal Guardian must complete the release form

COPYRIGHT RELEASE FORM FOR LOGO DESIGN-2

 

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Prime Minister Davis Highlights His Government’s First-Year Accomplishments

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By ERIC ROSE

Bahamas Information Services

 

#NASSAU, The Bahamas, September 29, 2022 – During his Statement on the First Year Anniversary of his Government, in the House of Assembly, on September 28, 2022, Prime Minister and Minister of Finance the Hon. Philip Davis said that the accomplishments of the past 12 months had only been possible because the Bahamian people “stepped up and stepped forward, and worked with us.”

“We are grateful for their trust and confidence, and the partnership we have forged bodes well for the positive national development of The Bahamas,” Prime Minister Davis said.

He added that, although his Government had accomplished a lot in the first year, but there was still “so much to do”.

“We are making good progress on many of the commitments which we made in our ‘Blueprint For Change’,” Prime Minister Davis noted.

“But the war in Ukraine which started back in February, and COVID-related manufacturing and supply chain issues in some of the major markets, have combined to create a new and very serious emergency: a global inflation crisis, which has driven up prices across the world,” he added.

Prime Minister Davis pointed out that, for a long time now, the cost of living in The Bahamas had been too high.  Also, with global inflationary pressures driving prices up across the board, life had become unaffordable for so many Bahamian families.

“The Government is working hard to help the country recover and to provide relief from these multiple crises,” he said.  “At the same time, we are also working to bring about the big, transformative changes which will make us stronger, less vulnerable to future crises, and bring us closer to fulfilling our national potential.”

Prime Minister Davis then reviewed some of the highlights of what had been accomplished during the past year, as having been so absorbed in the day-to-day, he pointed out, it was “instructive to step back and look at the big picture”.

In the area of Health, Prime Minister Davis noted that, even before coming into office, they made the point that the economic crisis the country faced could not be fully tackled until the COVID-19 health crisis was being well-managed.

At the time, he said, The Bahamas was performing “very poorly” on regional comparisons regarding the management of COVID.

“We knew our country could do much better,” Prime Minister Davis said.

“We introduced free testing – something the previous government said couldn’t be done – distributed almost one million free medical-grade masks, hired more doctors and nurses, and began to upgrade local clinics,” he added.

“Our commitment continues, with new industrial agreements with the Bahamas Nurses Union, which include salary increases and retention bonuses,” Prime Minister Davis pointed out.  “This is simply the right thing to do for those who have done so much to save lives during the pandemic, often at great personal risk to themselves.”

In the Public Service, Prime Minister Davis said, his Government had also settled and was continuing to settle outstanding promotions and regularizations for public sector workers.

“We negotiated union agreements, with The Bahamas Educators, Counsellors, and Allied

Workers Union; The Bahamas Customs, Immigration and Allied Workers Union; The Bahamas Union of Teachers, The Bahamas Nurses Union, The Bahamas Educators Managers Union: we have completed those agreements,” he pointed out.

“It is important to note that these negotiations resulted in the largest-ever remuneration for Bahamian workers in the Public Service,” he added.

“And we approved the return of annual increments for public servants along with an increase in public service pensions.”

Prime Minister Davis stated that, as he indicated earlier, higher prices were squeezing Bahamian households.  Therefore, his Government was implementing multiple policies to address the issues which contribute to the high Cost of Living.

He pointed out that the most direct tool his Government had to affect the cost was by reducing import duties and monitoring price controls.

“In the past year, we have therefore reduced import duties on dozens of food items, including healthy options like fruits and vegetables,” Prime Minister Davis said.

He added:  “We have lifted the import ban on Canadian beef, which will lower cost of meat to consumers. We have expanded the list of food items on the price control list and have also hired new Price Control Inspectors to ensure compliance with price regulation requirements.

“These are measures which bring some immediate relief, but we know we also must take big steps to reduce reliance on expensive foreign imports.”

Prime Minister Davis pointed out that, in Agriculture, his Government had committed millions of dollars in new investments for food security initiatives, which meant the nation would grow “a lot more of what we eat right here at home”, and create opportunities in Bahamian ownership and employment.  He added that his Government had also introduced duty-free concessions for parts to repair fishing and farming equipment.

“We are facilitating direct cash subsidies and concessions for poultry farming, to reduce the reliance on foreign imports,” Prime Minister Davis said.  “For the same reason, two new slaughterhouses have been commissioned for New Providence and Eleuthera.

“And the re-opening of packing houses, after four years, will assist farmers with feed, fertilizers and other tools.”

In terms of Affordable Housing, Prime Minister Davis noted that his Government had “picked up the ideological baton” begun under the Pindling-Hanna era, and once again, wanted to support Bahamians in owning their own homes.

“In this first year, we made available 47 new affordable homes in New Providence, in Pinecrest’s first phase of development,” he pointed out.  “New housing developments in New Providence and Abaco are also underway, along with a new housing initiative at Ocean Hole in Rock Sound, Eleuthera.”

“We have expanded concessions to first-time homeowners, which includes the purchasing of land, building and purchasing a house, and renovating existing structures,” Prime Minister Davis added.  “We increased the level of exemption for VAT on homes from $250,000 to $300,000.

“And we also implemented broad-based reduction of duties on building materials.”

Prime Minister Davis said that Energy was a significant part of the monthly expenditure for households and businesses.

He noted that his Government had launched a programme to implement solar micro-grids, rooftop panels and other solar devices, which were to be deployed across multiple Family Islands. That, he said, would benefit up to 17,000 Bahamians.

“Alongside this we have reduced customs duties for solar products,” Prime Minister Davis said.  “We have also reduced to 10%, the duty on electric cars which cost under $70,000. And we are well advanced in negotiations of a 61 Megawatt solar facility to decrease the cost of electricity.

“Bahamians deserve cleaner, more reliable, and more affordable energy, and we are working hard to build the solutions that will get us there.”

Prime Minister Davis pointed out that it had been a priority for my administration to offer both compassion and relief, via both social support and empowerment.

“Our administration is providing substantial support to successful, local feeding programmes run by churches and NGOs,” he said.  “The funding for social assistance increased by 50% compared to pre-pandemic levels.”

“We have extended tax breaks and concessions in Grand Bahama and Abaco Recovery Zones,” he added.  “We made a $500 lump-sum payment just before Christmas to the unemployed, to provide a little breathing room.”

He continued: “My Government provided relief grants to vendors in Port Lucaya, Downtown Freeport Farmers’ Market, Eight Mile Rock Fish Fry, and Lucayan Harbour and New Bight Fish Fry.  We also provided a financial stipend to surrey drivers.”

Prime Minister Davis noted that his Government successfully re-opened schools after two years of online learning.

“And we launched a free WiFi in the parks programme called – Park Connect Bahamas,” he said.  “To date, 30 parks across the country have been outfitted with free Internet access.”

“We successfully relaunched Urban Renewal, including the Urban Renewal Band and the Urban Renewal Foundation, which will spearhead a list of social support and empowerment programmes,” Prime Minister Davis added.  “The Urban Renewal Small Home Repairs Programme is well underway in Abaco, Moore’s Island, Bimini, Exuma, Cat Island and New Providence.

“And the Disaster Reconstruction Authority launched a Home Assistance Repair Programme in Grand Bahama and Abaco.”

Prime Minister Davis said that, in furthering its commitment to promote Better Government, during the past year, his Government made notable progress on a range of issues.

“We eliminated the travel heath visa which was such a burden to so many Bahamians,” he said.  “We enacted legislation concerning the ‘Presumption of death’, in order to allow survivors to more quickly settle the affairs of loved ones, who go missing after circumstances of peril, such as hurricanes.

He added that a Family Island Help Desk was set up in the Department of Local Government to assist local government personnel in navigating red tape, and addressing relevant issues.

“The Revenue Enhancement Unit was re-established to collect over $1 billion in tax arrears through more efficient collection, more effective compliance measures, and enforcement of laws,” Prime Minister Davis noted.

“New carbon credits legislation was passed, which will enable The Bahamas to be compensated for the role that our mangroves and seagrasses play in eliminating carbon from the atmosphere.”

 

Photo Caption: Prime Minister and Minister of Finance the Hon. Philip Davis speaks, during his Statement on the First Year Anniversary of his Government, in the House of Assembly, on September 28, 2022.

(BIS Photo/Ulric Woodside)

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Statement on Road Traffic Department 

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#TheBahamas, September 26, 2022 – As an integral agency under the Ministry of Transport and Housing, the Road Traffic Department is responsible for the collection of revenue from vehicle licensing and inspection fees.

On an annual basis, the revenue from the Road Traffic Department exceeds 60 million dollars.

This revenue is critical in supporting the programmes and initiatives of the Government of The Bahamas and covers the operating costs of the Road Traffic Department.

The revenue must be protected.

To ensure the integrity of revenue collected, numerous processes and procedures have been implemented. Additionally, several audits have been undertaken to ensure that employees act in accordance with the established protocols of the Department.

The Ministry is aware of allegations and discord in the public domain between two employees at the Road Traffic Department.

While it is not the policy of the Government of The Bahamas to publicly comment on internal staff matters, the Ministry takes grave exception to personal allegations against employees being made public while the allegations remain under investigation by independent parties.

Public Officers are reminded of the provisions of General Orders which disallows public statements on any matter.

The Ministry continues to foster and encourage a harmonious and respectful working environment at the Road Traffic Department and all agencies under its remit.

The Ministry remains strongly committed to strengthening the audit and compliance oversight of the Road Traffic Department and will not be deterred its efforts to safeguard the Government’s revenue stream.

 

September 26th, 2022 

Ministry of Transport & Housing

Commonwealth of The Bahamas

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