Minister of Health, Dr. Duane Sands. (File photo)
Minister of Health, Dr. Duane Sands. (File photo)

On Monday, May 4th, 2020, the Office of the Prime Minister released a statement, which expressed Prime Minister Hubert Minnis’ acceptance of Dr. Duane Sands’ resignation from his Cabinet post as Minister of Health.  The statement reads as follows:

“I have accepted the resignation of Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands effective tomorrow, May 5th, 2020. I thank him for his service to The Bahamas, including during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I will make a further statement on this matter tomorrow, including on who will serve as Minister of Health.”

In his resignation letter, also dated, May 4th, 2020, Dr. Sands, referred to the controversy surrounding the delivery of COVID-19 test swabs and his allowance of the landing of permanent residents, which was termed by the Prime Minister as a breach of protocol regulating the entry to The Bahamas by Bahamian citizens and permanent residents under Emergency COVID-19 Regulations.

“I accept responsibility for this breach of protocol.  I acknowledge that I acted outside of the scope of my authority in this matter,” said Dr. Sands in the letter.

He continued, “My actions were guided by my great desire to obtain the much needed testing swabs which are in short supply both here and internationally and which are key to our efforts to trace the spread of the coronavirus so as to better focus our responses. I acted at all times in good faith.

“Nevertheless, I acknowledge that my actions have caused embarrassment for which I express sincere regret.

“We continue in the midst of a most serious pandemic when focused attention should be trained only on how best the spread of COVID-19 might be slowed and eventually stopped.

“I believe that my continued presence in the cabinet may serve as a distraction from our effort and hence I offer my resignation from your cabinet.

“I thank you for the opportunity to serve our great country.”

About the matter leading to the Health Minister’s resignation, Prime Minister Minnis had this to say on Sunday, May 3rd, during a National Address:

Fellow Bahamians and Residents:

There was an incident last week involving some residents who flew by private aircraft to New Providence and brought COVID-19 test kits with them.

The protocol for allowing Bahamians and legal residents to enter the country at this time was breached last week.

I have now been informed that instead of the stated two permanent residents who were allowed to disembark and remain in the country that it was actually six permanent residents, who are all related.

All of these individuals have tested negative for COVID-19 and will remain under a mandatory 14-day quarantine. The Minister of Health will issue a statement on this matter tomorrow. Let me be clear about the protocol for Bahamians and residents wishing to return to The Bahamas.

Citizens and legal residents of The Bahamas, the latter with a home in The Bahamas, will be permitted entry into The Bahamas via air travel to New Providence or Grand Bahama unless approved otherwise.

Those individuals in these categories are to make contact with the nearest Bahamas Embassy or Consulate to them.

Aircraft and airlines proposing to carry such individuals are required to make flight applications in the normal course to the Department of Civil Aviation.

Each person will be required to obtain a RT-PCR COVID-19 molecular diagnostic test from an accredited lab prior to returning, unless otherwise approved to have the test administered upon arrival.

As some individuals returning from Florida have indicated they are having a difficulty in obtaining this test, we are helping to facilitate them in obtaining the diagnostic test.

The test results, identifying particulars and contact information of each returning individual will be submitted to the Office of the Chief Medical Officer, Ministry of Health.

All those returning will be required to be quarantined for fourteen days, in a government quarantined facility or self quarantined.

They will all be subject to mandatory quarantine verification monitoring by the Ministry of Health.