The Government is planning for the potential impact that the international outbreak of COVID-19 will have on the economy of The Bahamas, Prime Minister the Most Hon. Dr. Hubert Minnis said during a community meeting with residents on Tuesday evening. The Central Bank has indicated that The Bahamas should expect some negative economic fallout as a result of the spread of COVID-19, which has resulted in a global scale back in travel. However, officials are unsure exactly how the local economy will be impacted. “I’ve asked the Minister of Finance to come up with various financial models to determine how best to respond to a decrease in revenue stream,” Prime Minister Minnis told the standing-room only audience. “We are being proactive and planning for what may come. We are taking the necessary precautions.” Included in the Government’s COVID-19 plan will be contingencies to assist the poor and marginalized of the society, said the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister strongly encouraged residents not to panic and to follow the prevention steps to minimize the risk of COVID-19 being circulated by the Ministry of Health, including frequently and thoroughly washing hands, covering your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing with your elbow or sleeve, and avoiding close contact with anyone showing symptoms. As of 10 March, there were no suspected, recorded or confirmed cases of COVID- 19 in The Bahamas.
The Ministry of Health has put in place concrete steps to prepare and respond to the rapidly evolving COVID-19, including the establishment of a high level multi-sectoral task force, in- country testing for COVID-19, the enhancement of public health surveillance efforts and
facilities, and training for healthcare providers.
Prime Minister Minnis told residents that health officials are expected to hold town meetings in various Family Islands as part of a public education campaign on COVID-19. Tuesday’s community meeting is part of the Prime Minister’s continuing effort to maintain regular communication with Family Island communities on national issues. This latest round of Family Island meetings will also focus on getting residents’ suggestions on community projects that they would like considered by the Central Government. Prime Minister Minnis invited residents to identify and put forward their top five priorities for their community for consideration in the 2020/2021 national budget planning process. “If you have any ideas please pass them on to the Local Administrator as soon as possible and no later than 30 March,” said the Prime Minister. Because there are obviously limited funds and resources in the Budget, the Government will have to review ideas and proposals and decide which ones are priorities and can be funded at this time, especially given the financial constraints following Hurricane Dorian and the potential impact of COVID-19, Prime Minister Minnis explained.
“I think it’s important for me, as prime minister to hear from you and to speak to you directly about the needs in your community,” he said. “It is in keeping with the promise I made to you while on the campaign trail.” During the question and answer period, the Prime Minister answered residents’ questions about the coronavirus, education and infrastructure projects, among other topics.