The Bahamas can experience a serious surge of the deadly coronavirus, despite cases in the country being relatively low since the start of the New Year.
This is so, according to Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis during his national address on Sunday (February 21).
“Several countries in the Caribbean are experiencing surges. Some of our Caribbean neighbors have had to introduce greater restrictions and emergency measures approved by their parliaments, similar to the ones we instituted during various periods of the pandemic. These measures include expanded overnight curfews and weekend curfews that may last for some time.
“We wish our Caribbean brothers and sisters well during these difficult times. It is important for every Bahamian to remember that this deadly virus spreads quickly, and that new variants could make the situation worse within a relatively short period of time,” said the prime minister.
“It is possible that we could experience another serious surge. Of particular concern are variants of the virus that have emerged out of the United Kingdom, Brazil and South Africa. However, there are also other variants scientists are monitoring,” he added.
The prime minister said that there are fears that some new variants are more infectious and could cause increased sickness and death.
There are also fears that existing vaccines may not be as effective against them, as opposed to earlier versions of the virus, the nation’s leader pointed out.
“In recent weeks, in the Northern Hemisphere, we are moving on from the darkest period of the early winter, during which there were record cases, record hospitalizations and record deaths. On February 16, the World Health Organization (WHO) noted that global cases continued to fall, with 2.7 million new cases the previous week. This was a 16 percent decline compared to the week before. Deaths declined by 10 percent over the same period. Still, there remain areas of concern in our region.
“Here in The Bahamas, we have had a long, relatively successful period. The Bahamian people are largely complying with the rules, and the government’s policies are mostly working. As a people, most of us have collectively taken this health emergency seriously. Most unfortunately and recklessly, there have been those with political motives who criticized the life-saving measures the government put in place to save and to protect lives. They do not want rules. Their policy suggestions would lead to more deaths and illness,” he noted.
He added that as a doctor, he is aware of the importance to act early and aggressively to save lives and to prevent suffering.
“As your prime minister, my guiding star will continue to be your welfare and that of your loved ones,” said the PM.
Speaking specifically on the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine in the country, Dr. Minnis noted that while the vaccination will not be mandatory to Bahamians and residents, he will be taking the vaccine and encouraged all to do the same, once available in the country.
“The continued emergency measures and rules have helped buy us time in the race to get our people vaccinated. Vaccines are critical to ending the pandemic. In The Bahamas, there will not be a government mandate requiring you to take a vaccine, however, we strongly urge all who are eligible to get vaccinated.
“I will take the vaccine. I will urge family and friends to take the vaccine. By getting vaccinated you will help the country to return to a greater level of normalcy. By getting vaccinated you will also help our economy to recover faster. When a large percentage of Bahamians are vaccinated, we will be able to responsibly open up even more. More economic activity will be possible, leading to more jobs, more working hours, more family income, more small business activity and a return of more tourists in the months ahead,” said Dr. Minnis.
Additionally, he said that showing proof that one has been vaccinated might quite possibly become necessary when attempting to travel to other territories.
“It is also quite possible that being vaccinated will be a requirement by other countries for you to travel overseas. Other countries may not allow you to enter their borders unless you have proof of vaccination.
“We are hearing that cruise lines may require their passengers to show that they have been vaccinated. Proof of vaccination may be one of the critical measures in helping the tourism industry to bounce back around the world. As a leading tourism destination, we must play our part and set an example for the world,” he added.
The prime minister urged residents not to let their guards down.
“Now is not the time to let our guards down. The pandemic is still with us. Even as we race to begin vaccinations, we must continue to abide by the health care measures that helped us in the pandemic over the past year.
“Health officials continue to closely monitor the viral patterns present in The Bahamas, particularly among travel-related/imported cases of COVID-19. Let us try to avoid another surge. Another surge would be detrimental to public health and our economy. Please continue to wear your masks. Please avoid large gatherings. Keep at least a six-foot distance from others. Wash your hands thoroughly and frequently.
“Stay at home if you are not feeling well and do not go where large crowds are gathered. To bring this pandemic to an end, a vast majority of the population worldwide needs to be immunized to the virus. Let us play our part and let us be an example to the world,” said the PM.