Minister of State For Grand Bahama Addresses Senate on Fight Against COVID-19

FREEPORT, Grand Bahama -
Sen. the Hon. J. Kwasi Thompson, Minister of State for Grand Bahama
addressed the Senate today, bringing Independence greetings, and speaking to the government’s
achievements and continued efforts in the fight against COVID-19 in the nation.
Sen. Thompson said that the news of two (2) new cases in Grand Bahama (which could potentially
become three) comes as a sobering reminder that we are still in this fight and that Bahamians, especially
Grand Bahamians, must remain vigilant.
Sen. Thompson acknowledged that while Grand Bahama is particularly challenged with the state of
health facilities on the island, there has been significant progress with the repairs to the Rand Memorial
Hospital and the sense of urgency toward completion is evident among contractors on site. He went on
to thank The Grand Bahama Port Authority (GBPA) for continued assistance with the Cancer Center
which currently houses some patients of the Rand.
Staged Reopening Progress
Regarding the staged economic reopening plan and continuing Emergency Orders, Sen. Thompson
stressed that the government recognizes its responsibility to the people, and as such, has sought to find
the right balance between health and safety, the economy as well as our rightful liberties. While the
government has prioritized the safety of Bahamians, residents and visitors, The Bahamas cannot afford
to completely shut down indefinitely, as our nation would have already seen the negative effects of
business closures and travel restrictions during the past several months.
Sen. Thompson extended commendation to front-line workers, noting that these critical community
workers were empowered under the strong leadership, guidance and directives from the Prime
Minister. He offered special kudos to medical professionals in New Providence and Grand Bahama have
performed exceptionally well in managing the crisis of this pandemic on the ground, closely monitoring
and advising thousands of Bahamians each day, as well as visitors.
While one life lost is too many, The Bahamas has been fortunate enough to have seen an extremely low
death count compared to other countries.
Electronic Health Travel Visa
Sen. Thompson also spoke to the Electronic Travel Health Visa, proudly noting that The Bahamas has
been one of the first countries to implement this. The travel visa requires online application along with
the submission of a negative COVID-19 RT-PCR test, which is reviewed, and responded to
electronically. Sen. Thompson announced that the platform will soon evolve to include use of blockchain solutions for added security.
He commended the Department of Transformation and Digitization; Ministry of Health; Department of
Immigration; and the Ministry of Tourism for collaborative efforts in developing and executing the travel
visa system. To date, some 28,733 applications have been processed through the system internationally.
With some 16,054 applications being created since July 1st
.
All persons traveling are asked to apply. Further, Bahamians traveling within the country are asked to
apply for a domestic travel visa.
Controversy surrounding Holiday Beach Closure
The Senator acknowledged the cultural importance of beaches to Bahamians; especially on holidays.
However, the closure of beaches in Grand Bahama and New Providence, as well as other measures
taken are about mitigating risk. As a result of the Independence Day holiday, it stands to reason that the
number of people visiting beaches would spike. As such, the decision was made in effort to mitigate
risk of spreading COVID-19.
Plea to Grand Bahamians
Grand Bahama had been fortunate to have not seen a case of COVID-19 in several weeks. However,
there is a possible risk of community spread as a result of the new cases. Sen. Thompson made a plea to
residents of Grand Bahama stay at home as much as possible this holiday weekend. In addition, he
urged residents to:
 Always wear masks when going out in public
 Exercise caution when visiting family and friends
 Avoid travel unless absolutely necessary
 If you have travelled, cooperate with health officials and protocols upon return
 Exercise caution and work, church and stores
 Exercise physical distancing, wear masks, and sanitize hands often
Sen. Thompson encouraged Bahamians to enjoy their families, celebrate Independence at home this
weekend and continue to follow health protocols as we battle COVID-19 in The Bahamas.