Amidst protests by West End residents over the Community Clinic being considered as one of the facilities for quarantine COVID-19 patients, another deepening concern is the arrival of foreign boaters to Old Bahama Bay (OBB) Resort and Marina.
Earlier this week this daily investigated and discovered that at least 15 boats were docked at the marina in West End, despite Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis imposing a 24-hour nationwide curfew, as Grand Bahama confirmed its first coronavirus case. The PM also declared closure for borders and ports except for emergencies and cargo import.
The Freeport News reached out to Old Bahama Bay Chief Financial Officer James Culmer, who admitted that OBB Marina has had a sizeable number of incoming guests.
However, he insisted that OBB officials are taking precautions to examine each boat captain or owner before entering the resort.
Culmer explained that the visitors are required to fill out an immigration and health form, followed by a Dr. Frank
Revealing that 30 boaters entered OBB two weeks ago and 15 last week, he stated further that visitors are only looking for a place of safety from the virus and selected Grand Bahama as an island of refuge.
“We have two forms. One is a Bahamas Immigration Health Form. The second form that we got, is off the Bahamas Ministry of Health Website, and that is for each boat owner or each boat captain to fill out prior to exiting the boat. I think two weeks ago, we might have had about 30 boats and 40 rooms booked, and last week we had about 10 to 15 boats and about 15 rooms,” Culmer said.
CFO Culmer further stated that:
“The form that the visitors filled out was to indicate if they have been residing or visiting any one of these countries that were affected and whether or not anybody on the vessel, whether it be airport or boat, had any sign of cold or cough.
“Once they would’ve answered all of those questions in the negative, then they were allowed to go to Bahamas Customs and Immigrations.
“Dr. Frank Bartlett and his team would review the questions, but we were also hopeful that they (authorities) would’ve placed someone in West End (for testing), because someone could be dishonest.
“But, all of this is out of the window now, because they have closed the borders. But, if you are asking if the persons who are here now might be infected, I wouldn’t know that,” Culmer confessed.
He insisted that his company is complying with the directives that relate to the national emergency.
“I am not going to be judgmental about anybody like that, but I know, based on what the government has asked us to do, we were doing that. The people at the marina were required to fill out the forms and be honest, while doing it,” added Culmer.
Noting that the visitors are no strangers to the island, Culmer insisted that he remains proactive by screening the entire resort for the safety of his employees.
“Most of the people that I have seen come in are regulars and they came here to seek refuge at a place they trust and at a place they know is quiet and comfortable. But, I think, some of them got scared off by the prime minister’s remarks. I spoke to four or five boaters and to the Immigration and Custom officers, they said that the people who are here are allowed to stay.
“We obviously do have exemption as a hotel, but it is just a restriction now, of who comes in, which I understand clearly,” he pointed out.
At the time of the interview, Culmer said that there were only five boaters left at the marina.
“I saw Dr. Minnis’ remarks and I understand he did put in some measures. I brought in a guy just to, specifically, spray down all of the areas where guests would be. The marina office was sprayed down on a regular basis, as well the areas for Customs and Immigration, all of the restaurants, entry doors and lobbies.
“We offered Ministry of Health a place right in the marina, just to be on the property and be able to check these people as they come in. Unfortunately, that did not have happen,” said Culmer.
The OBB executive maintained that he is not a “man that supports any dishonest behavior and OBB management is working feverishly to keep the resort a safe haven.”
This daily also reached out to Bahamas Immigration Director Clarence Russell and Assistant Director Hubert Ferguson, but was unsuccessful in getting a comment.