The Bahamas government said Monday that persons who have been placed in quarantine as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic will be allowed to cast their vote in the general elections on Thursday.
A statement from the Office of the Prime Minister said it wanted to “advise that those in quarantine who are registered to vote in the 16 September 2021 general election will be permitted to leave quarantine to cast their vote”.
It said that in accordance with the Emergency Powers (COVID 19 Pandemic) (Management and Recovery) (No. 2) (Amendment) (No. 10) Order, 2021, the eligible quarantined person must immediately return to their place of quarantine after voting at the appropriate polling station and ensure that they wear a mask which is fitted to the face and covers the nose and mouth. In addition, they must maintain a distance of six feet from others and sanitize their hands before entering the polling station”.
The statement by the Office of the Prime Minister follows concerns raised by politicians and health officials with the latest coming last Friday, when the director of the National HIV/AIDS and Infectious Diseases Programme at the Ministry of Health, Dr Nikkiah Forbes, warned that there could be further spread of the COVID-19 if people, who are in quarantine are allowed to vote at the polls.
“If that scenario happens with persons in the same space, there will be a potential for COVID transmission so that could be safely done for example if it were online or some other remote forum, but the practised recommendation is that persons who are COVID positive should be in isolation,” he said.
COVID concerns were raised on Thursday after thousands of voters in New Providence and Grand Bahama gathered at the polls to cast an early vote, with little to no social distancing seen in many instances.
Health Minister Renward Wells had earlier indicated that the government will not prevent people in quarantine from voting.
“To prevent folks (from voting), there are some constitutional issues I believe, legal issues around all of that and at the end of the day, folks are going to find a way to exercise their democratic right,” Wells told reporters.
“The government of The Bahamas and let me say this, in the United States, during the US election, the CDC had put out some guidelines and they said whether you’re COVID positive or whether you’re in quarantine, you can go out to vote in the American elections but the point is that you treat everyone who comes to the poll as if they’re COVID positive, so all Americans were allowed to vote and I think we’re taking that same model but we are putting even more stringent guidelines inside the polls.”
The ruling Free National Movement (FNM) and the main opposition Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) are contesting the elections for control of the 39 seats Parliament. In the last general election, the FNM, headed by Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis won 35 seats as against four by the PLP, which is now headed by attorney Phillip Davis
In its statement on Monday, the Office of the Prime Minister again sought to remind members of the public that they should practice the COVID-19 prevention protocols at all times
“Bahamians and residents are strongly urged to get vaccinated as soon as possible. To make an appointment visit vax.gov.bs or make a walk-up appointment at any vaccination center,” it added.