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19 May 2021.

( Editor’s note: The Government announced an exception for crabbers late on Friday 21 May 2021)

Today, the Prime Minister in his role as the Competent Authority, announced a curfew for Andros which begins tomorrow that restricts movement from 8pm until 5 am daily. This sudden announcement under the emergency orders has raised several concerns.

The Prime Minister, who is also the Minister of Finance, must know that Andros is on the cusp of the crab season which provides an economic boost for an already struggling economy. This blanket approach is neither practical nor prudent in these circumstances. The practice of catching crabs is not done in group settings; it is achieved by individual or family groups – which implies that social distancing is a natural feature. Last year around this same period, exemptions were made to allow for individuals and families to conduct their “crab catching”. It is imperative that the Competent Authority allow for exemptions this time around also.

Throughout this pandemic, the Progressive Liberal Party has continued to stress the need for mass testing and a more rigid contact tracing regime than that which operates now. Furthermore, there is the question of the effectiveness of the curfew hours in halting the spread of the virus when we know that Covid-19 transmission is not observant of any particular hour of the day. A sensible method to prevent the spread would be to increase testing, contact trace, isolate and quarantine those individuals who test positive for Covid-19, not put an entire island under curfew.

In his statement today, the Prime Minister mentioned that he made this decision on the advice of health professionals. For several weeks now, health professionals have been calling for the Competent Authority to reverse its decision to allow visitors who have been fully vaccinated to enter the Bahamas without the requirement of a negative PCR test. Yet, that advice was not taken. It appears that economic considerations impacted that decision. Therefore, the economic considerations of the Andros crabbing industry must be made in this instance as well.

Any economic shock, such as this curfew, could prove detrimental to families who depend on crab season to provide a real and financial injection into their pockets, and to the overall economy of Andros. Should we have our people who are willing to put in the work for their living now be subjected to social assistance through National Insurance or Social Services?

As it stands, this announcement indicates that the Prime Minister has not learned from any of the mistakes during his early decision-making emergency strategies or those effects on vulnerable island communities.

The logical and practical decision at this time would be to allow for an exemption for individuals to partake of this cultural and financial activity, providing an allowable median as we emerge from this pandemic.