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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

GBPA welcomes EY’s New Office to Freeport

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#TheBahamas, June 22, 2022 – The Grand Bahama Port Authority (GBPA) has approved a business license for EY Bahamas Ltd., who is set to open a new office in Freeport.

With more than 300,000 employees globally, EY provides assurance, consulting, law, strategy, tax and transactions services to businesses, countries and entrepreneurs. Significant economic impact from this investment will stem from the need for local housing, food and beverage, entertainment, transportation and more.

“We are pleased to welcome EY to Freeport,” said Ian Rolle, GBPA’s President.  “GBPA has been working with EY to take advantage of the BH-1B Visa program, which provides a significant opportunity for us to welcome more people to our city. We are looking forward to the economic boost to local businesses including grocery stores, taxis, car rentals, the housing market, restaurants and more. The ripple effects as a result of EY’s new footprint in Freeport will be a positive addition to our business community.”

GBPA and EY began serious discussions in 2019 prior to Hurricane Dorian regarding the benefits of operating in Freeport’s Special Economic Zone.  Since then, GBPA continued building its relationship with the firm and further helped them to understand the benefits of the BH-1B visa, which allows them to use Freeport to support their client’s needs across the region and globe.  Besides attracting local Bahamian and international talent, EY was drawn to Freeport’s proximity to North America, its safe environment, technology infrastructure and more.

EY has operated in The Bahamas for decades, providing rewarding careers for Bahamians. In its new Freeport location, EY will offer its clients solutions utilizing global talent, while creating new opportunities for employment and training for Grand Bahamians.

“Our Invest Grand Bahama promotional arm is dedicated to attracting these types of businesses that can benefit from our unique Free Trade Zone. We will continue to do our part as we promote the best Freeport has to offer,” Mr. Rolle concluded.

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RM Bailey’s Class of 2022 told, go where your heart leads you; be courageous, innovative, be your best

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By: Kathryn Campbell

Bahamas Information Services

 

#TheBahamas, June 22, 2022 – Vice-President of the Senate, Senator the Hon. Barry Griffin appealed to R.M. Bailey Senior High School’s Class of 2022 to be advocates of change and to use their voices to encourage good governance and constant innovation.

Senator Griffin was the guest speaker at the school’s commencement exercise Monday, June 20, at Charles Saunders Auditorium. “Empowered to Make What Seems Impossible – Possible” was the theme for the event.

“What we need now from our leaders is a sense of urgency. There has long been this feeling in The Bahamas, and in particular the upper echelons of our country, that we have comfort and we can manage to navigate the twists and turns that come our way,” said Senator Griffin.

“But what Hurricane Dorian has taught us, what the pandemic has taught us, what the inflation and rising costs of gas, electricity and food has taught us is — something that those at the fringes of our society have known for far too long — that comfort we feel will not last for long.”

To make the change, he remarked that the love of an old  “anachronistic” system that no longer serves the nation and its students must be removed.

He appealed for expanded opportunities for all, structural changes in the economy and in politics.

“We must begin to call a spade a spade — we have a problem of inequality, a problem of equal access to opportunity and a problem of failed politics. And graduates the only way that changes, is by you making your voices heard.”

He offered the following advice to the graduates:

  1. The old rules are crumbling and nobody knows what the new rules are. So make up your own rules.
  2. Start where you are, use what you have, do what you can.
  3. When you take risks, you learn that there will be times when you succeed and there will be times when you fail, both are equally important.
  4. Be bold, be courageous, be your best.
  5. There is no script. Live your life the way you want.
  6. Wherever you go, go with all your heart.
  7. If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.
  8. Failure is the condiment that gives success flavour.
  9. Don’t wait. The time will never be just right.
  10. Go where your heart leads you — and do everything you desire — act as if it were impossible for you to fail.

“My advice is to be bold, to be you, to embrace failure, and to live as if everything is possible.

“It is my hope that you run out of here excited, leaning forward into the wind and ready to take the world by storm,” he said.

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Summit of the Americas elevates hemispheric challenges, Bahamas PM vocal

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By Shanieka Smith

Features Writer

 

#TheBahamas, June 17, 2022 – “The Americas are challenged by crisis.” This was the statement made by the Bahamas Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, the Hon. Philip Davis during his contribution to the Plenary Session of the 9th Summit of the Americas on June 10, 2022.

“Climate, COVID and conflict have undermined our safety and our security,” he said. He went further to ask some thought-provoking questions: “Have we done enough here, at this gathering, to relieve suffering? To promote peace? To fight for the economic dignity of our People? “Will the work we carried out here continue once the spotlight and the world’s attention has moved on?”

He said the work and fine words do not count unless the people are told that the leaders have laid a true foundation for their progress.

Hinting back to the Summit in 2019, he said it is evident that the good intentions and optimism of that gathering did not translate into enduring advancement.

“Indeed, some countries in our hemisphere have become more unequal and more violent… across the Americas, the scourges of racism and discrimination appear to be on the rise. Emerging moral and technological challenges to our democratic norms threaten our capacity to deliver free and fair elections, and effective governance.” He added that all the mentioned challenges are “eclipsed by the existential threat of climate change.”

He expressed thanks to President Biden and Vice-President Harris and the people of the United States, to host and facilitate the dialogue and cooperation because none of the mentioned issues can be resolved by one nation.

Davis added, however, that “multilateral engagement at the highest levels happens too infrequently – certainly when it comes to issues which are important to the Caribbean,” he added. “But if the work of this Summit continues, if the will to cooperate endures, if words turn into action –change can lead to progress, and we can move forward.”

He highlighted several key factors affecting the region’s development, like hurricanes and other natural disasters that result in injury and debt, Covid-19 and the lack of sufficient healthcare workers, disinformation, and the illegal shipment of guns and movement of people. He also hinted at a topical issue, which suited the occasion as some countries were not invited to the Summit.

“It is easy to talk with those with whom we agree, but we must also be able to talk with those with whom we disagree. In fact, sometimes those are the conversations that are most urgently needed,” he said.  Prime Minister Davis noted that all the countries in the hemisphere faced overlapping developmental, security and democratic challenges. Collaboration and collective action can only be of mutual benefit. The absence of the Republic of Cuba has made these deliberations less complete,” added the Prime Minister.

“We must also be mindful of the unintended consequences of isolation and separation,” he said as he shared that more could be done to provide support for Haitians.

He noted that for the institutions within the Inter-American system to fulfil their potential, there should be some rethinking or re-calibrating. He added that the Organisation of American States (OAS), in particular, required both a structural and cultural adjustment.

As the Prime Minister ended his presentation, he called for not just more talking but also that participants “keep ‘doing — upholding our commitments and taking the action necessary for our collective survival.”

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