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Facing Loss of Tourists, Bahamas Resorts Give Back to Their Communities – Barron’s

During the coronavirus pandemic, any country relying on the tourism industry finds itself on an economic islandisolated from the income that maintains a tax base and social services.

The Bahamas faces the Covid-19 crisis as a literal island, cut off from the outside world via every airport or sea lane. At the archipelagos heart, Nassaus 275,000 people confront health crises, poverty, and unemployment without financial assistance from fellow Caribbean venues who also battle the same challenges.

Currently, the Bahamas remain at Level 3 or High Risk for Covid-19, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And the islands own government took the step of stopping all flights or cruise ships visits. Hotels remaining open can accept only Bahamian visitors.

But as the struggle against the virus continues, Nassaus most famous luxury destinations are assisting locals in need until faster tests and successful vaccines restore the travel flow.

The resort of Graycliff started life in 1740 as the pirate fortress of Captain John Howard Graysmith and the schooner Graywolf. Jump ahead to 2020, and the quiet, palm-covered colonial estate is home to 18 guest rooms, a gourmet restaurant, a cigar company, a chocolatier, and one of the worlds largest wine collections (with more than 250,000 bottles in their dungeon cellar). During more carefree times, Graycliff serves gourmet food and the finest spirits to celebrities and presidents alike.

As the virus first shut down the island earlier this year, owner Enrico Garzaroli decided to use the downtime to renovate the property until reopening briefly in July. A spike in cases closed the island again mid-summer, and Garzaroli realized this crisis would last longer than anyone expected.

When it became clear that the coronavirus was a long-term health crisis threatening the livelihoods of Nassaus tourism workers, Garzaroli and Graycliff stepped up to help feed anyone struggling with unemployment. Every Friday for 10 weeks beginning in April, Graycliff distributed free meals for Nassaus hungry.

We gave out around 42,000 hot meals, Garzaroli explains. The cars would line up. We had the kitchen going with about 15 volunteers, and blocked the street off with the help of the local government. We would make sure the homeless got fed first, and some people began camping out every Thursday night.

Graycliff also reserved some meals for local charities, hospitals, and shelters. The donated food and drink came together through partnerships between Garzaroli, food suppliers, Coca-Cola, and other Nassau entities.

We decorated the street and had bands playing, Garzaroli adds. Even with what we were facing, I wanted people to be in a good mood.

With the islands public schools still closed, Graycliff is confronting the educational crisis amid its underprivileged by transforming its Humidor Churrascaria into a distance-learning classroom for children ages eight to 12.

Monday to Friday, we have a rotation of 26 kids at a time here for virtual school, Garzaroli says. Were welcoming the neediest kids as vetted by government officials.

Classes were underway as of Oct. 5. Using donated tablet computers, the students interact with four teachers from two local schools. Garzaroli includes lunch for all in attendance. Finally, when class isnt in session, Graycliff volunteers will teach the children how to swim in the resort pool.

Across the island, another high-end property confronted Nassaus medical needs. When Covid-19 cases began to overwhelm the citys limited treatment facilities, the luxurious Breezes Resort and Spa Bahamas turned an entire buildings worth of hotel rooms into hospital space.

According to John Issa , owner of Breezes and Chairman of SuperClubs, the property was originally approached as the largest hotel in the Bahamas by government officials to provide a portion of its 400 rooms as 14-day quarantine facilities for Bahamian nationals returning home from abroad.

We gave them the whole buildinga separated wing with its own entrance and exit to maintain quarantine, Issa says. Once the hospitals became overburdened with coronavirus cases, we were then asked to house non-Covid hospital patients until the infection rate slowed down.

Issa and his team allowed medical professionals to take charge of the donated Breezes building. Those doctors and nurses maintained hospital services out of the space for almost four months. In addition, Breezes management made donations of toiletries, garments, and other essentials to patients throughout the crisis.

We hoped this would be over by now, but I dont think the flights will return until the biggest resorts reopen.

As the pandemic reaches into autumn, Issa expects the Bahamas troubles to continue until medical realities allow the islands mega-resorts to do business again.

Were still open for business for locals here, he explains. We hoped this would be over by now, but I dont think the flights will return until the biggest resorts reopen.

The islands here are under great financial stress, Issa adds. When tourism is down, taxes are down and unemployment benefits are up. When hurricanes Irma , Jose , and Maria hit the Caribbean in 2017, those islands that were unaffected came together to help those that were damaged. There are no islands untouched by this crisis.

Frank J. Comito , CEO and director general of the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association, reports his organization is in contact with public health agencies across the Caribbean to coordinate education in dealing with the coronavirus.

Were sharing a lot of information between the islands, Comito says. Weve trained thousands of employees in the best practices and looked to put in place stringent guidelines across the region. We come together remotely as best we can, and everybody follows what everybody else is doing to handle the virus.

As properties like Graycliff and Breezes try to assist their community while running at reduced capacities, Comito insists theres no firm plans yet for when and how the region could reopen on a larger scale.

The large resorts in Bermuda, Jamaica, or the Bahamas will reopen when they believe the protocols allow them to operate safely. We are seeing booking on the luxury end remaining stable. Still, the bigger properties need to see the return of flights and cruise ships to provide an adequate number of potential bookings before reopening.

We are seeing some hopeful signs, Comito adds. There is a healthy level of bookings coming in for Christmas and forward into the winter season.

Continued here:

Facing Loss of Tourists, Bahamas Resorts Give Back to Their Communities - Barron's

The first human settlers on islands caused extinctions – UC Riverside

Though some believe prehistoric humans lived in harmony with nature, a new analysis of fossils shows human arrival in the Bahamas caused some birds to be lost from the islands and other species to be completely wiped out.

The researchers examined more than 7,600 fossils over a decade and concluded that human arrival in the Bahamas about 1,000 years ago was the main factor in the birds extinction and displacement in recent millennia, although habitat fluctuations caused by increased storm severity and sea level rise could have played a role.

Many spectacular species, such as a colorful parrot, a striking scavenger called a caracara, and a number of hawks, doves, owls, and songbirds, were still found as recently as 900 years ago, and may have overlapped with people by a century before disappearing or retreating to only one or two islands in The Bahamas. No other environmental change could explain their loss, said study co-lead Janet Franklin, a distinguished professor of botany and plant sciences at UC Riverside.

Full results of Franklins study were published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

For example, the Abaco parrot is now only found on two islands in the Bahamas. There are many islands in between the two where the parrots now live that have the same habitat.

We wondered why those parrots arent found in the middle islands, Franklin said. It turns out, they were, not that long ago. Franklin and her collaborator, ornithologist David Steadman of University of Florida, found Abaco parrot fossils were on all the islands until 1,000 years ago.

The study was also able to identify losses of bird species that lived in the Bahamas since the end of the last ice age, more than 10,000 years before people arrived. These species included a giant barn owl and giant eagle predators whose prey also disappeared from the islands after people arrived.

More than two thirds of the 90 bird species identified in the fossils that date from the end of the last ice age. Either they have gone altogether extinct or now only persist outside of the Bahamas.

The Bahamian islands are treasure troves of fossils because the limestone caves and flooded sinkholes there act as natural traps and are highly effective at preserving bones. Because theyre relatively small land areas lacking mountains or steep, remote areas where plants and animals can retreat to avoid people, the islands are also places where humans can have a big impact.

Giant predator birds likely competed with people for food such as giant tortoises now extinct and hutia, the only native land mammal in the Bahamas, which resembles a large guinea pig. In addition, humans hunt birds that eat fruit, because they tend to be fatter and more delicious.

It isnt clear how much of the effect on birds is attributable to habitat change caused by people settling on the islands and how much was due to direct human predation. But Franklin said the wild habitat requires protections to preserve the animals that remain.

The species here are the ones that survived, Franklin said. They might be more adaptable than other birds, and less dependent on a niche or habitat thats strongly affected by human activity. But they are still vulnerable and worth conserving.

Furthermore, the researchers note in the study that the related futures of biodiversity and humanity perhaps never have been at a crossroads more than now. The transfer of a zoonotic disease from wildlife to humans, which has resulted in a global pandemic, is directly linked to biodiversity loss.

In other words, as humans increasingly take over wild habitat, particularly rainforests, there are more opportunities for diseases to jump from wildlife to people.

Protecting rainforests and regulating wildlife trade helps the animals and is also a component of preventing pandemics, Franklin said.

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The first human settlers on islands caused extinctions - UC Riverside

Bahamas’ ‘Sad Hunk’ Lives Up to Its Name – Exclaim!

Published Oct 08, 2020

7

Despite his change in scenery, Sad Hunk features Jurvanen's regular collaborators (Don Kerr, Felicity Williams, Christine Bougie and Mike O'Brien) along with new addition Sam Weber on guitar musicians whose gentle, precise playing combines perfectly with Jurvanen's laid-back energy. Their prior LP, 2018's Earthtones pushed the band in new, unexpected directions in their collaborations with James Gadson and Pino Palladino, the legendary rhythm section from D'Angelo's Black Messiah (2014). Here, they return to their trademark soulful indie folk, a sound that is easily recognizable yet never formulaic.

Sad Hunk is perhaps the perfect title for this record, encapsulating Jurvanen's sweetness and sense of humour ("I'm not looking for another wife / I'm just looking at you, babe") as well as his melancholic edge and thoughtful nature. The album's first single, "Own Alone," is a shuffling, almost frantic groove on which Jurvanen proposes a toast to "cold and broken, lonely me," proclaiming himself "Too old to understand that selfie / Too far gone for you to help me." Jurvanen alternates between lighthearted and ponderous on songs such as the twangy "Done Did Me No Good" and "Up With the Jones," a plucky tune punctuated by handclaps and guitar tones that evoke Fleetwood Mac.

A running lyrical theme throughout, perhaps related to the question asked in "Trick to Happiness," is the value of economic security and cultural capital, touched upon in "Own Alone" ("Too broke to feel so wealthy") and "Not Cool Anymore," and directly addressed in both "Can't Complain" and "Fair Share." The latter two songs trace Jurvanen's feelings toward his career as a successful musician with Bahamas, wherein he expresses gratitude for being able to make a living with his art but asserts his wish to avoid a "bad deal with Warner" and symbols of wealth such as pension plans and private schools. Williams' lovely, gentle backing vocals provide a perfect counterpart to Jurvanen in the bluesy "Fair Share," in which Jurvanen offers advice to young musicians, in turn prompting him to ask the question, "Where does all of that leave me?"

The questions posed throughout Sad Hunk are perhaps unanswerable, yet reflect Jurvanen's deceptively complex, philosophical lyricism. Unassuming yet laid-back and confident, Bahamas have quickly become one of Canada's most beloved folk staples, as evidenced by a multitude of JUNO Awards and nominations. Sad Hunk captures the band's lively chemistry, proving that five albums in, Jurvanen and company are still finding ways to make "something new for all of you with some old refrain."(Brushfire)

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Bahamas' 'Sad Hunk' Lives Up to Its Name - Exclaim!

Grand Bahama Island ready to welcome visitors on October 15 Skip – eTurboNews | Trends | Travel News

After a phased opening in July, the Government of The Bahamas closed the islands borders in response to a rise in COVID-19 cases, to bring the infection rate under control and protect the health of locals and visitors.

Beginning October 15th, Grand Bahama Island will enter Phase 3 of The Bahamas Tourism Readiness & Recovery Plan, ahead of the busy holiday season. Beaches and major hotels will reopen across the island, with a 14-day (or length of stay) Vacation in Place (VIP) for all guests through October 31st. Vacation in Place (VIP) means that guests must remain on the hotelproperty, where all amenities, including hotel spas, gyms, bars and more will be accessible.

On November 1st, The Bahamas will remove the mandatory VIP requirement for all visitors, returning citizens and residents, which will allow everyone to explore and enjoy the island. Attractions, excursions and tours are also set to reopen on November 1st as part of the Phase 3 plan.

A variety of establishments on Grand Bahama Island are fully operational and eagerly awaiting visitors in order to display their special brand of island hospitality.

Acurfew is still in place from 10 PM to 5 AM, but social events such as Weddingsand Receptions are now allowed both outdoors and indoors as long as they are inaccordance with the guidelines and protocols set forth by the Ministry ofHealth. This bodes well for guests who travel far and wide to the islandthat has a reputation for romantic escapes and destination weddings.

Throughoutthe lockdown period, the International Airport at Freeport, which is in themidst of a terminal expansion project, remained open and was fully operational,receiving cargo, private flights, emergency and humanitarian flights. Theairport is now accepting international flights such as Silver Airways out ofFlorida; American Airlines returned on October 8th. Bahamasairhas been in operation domestically, but they are yet to announce when they willresume international flights.

TheMinistry of Tourism continues to work closely with the Ministry of Health toestablish and evaluate protocols and timelines with respect to the RT-PCR testingin advance of travel and curb any potential spread of the virus.

As areminder, the Bahamian governments new entry requirements for visitors, whichcame into effect on September 1st. 2020, include:

Theonly applicants who are not required to provide a COVID-19 test are:

Inaddition to the above protocols, a rapid antigen test will be conducted uponarrival, and then again four days (96 hours) after arrival in The Bahamas. Therapid tests are quick and easy with the results being provided electronicallyin less than 20 minutes. All visitors who are leaving on Day Five of theirvisit will not be required to take the second test. The cost of the rapidtests on and after arrival will be included in the cost of the visa.

All persons arriving by yachts or other pleasure craftswill be able to make arrangements for their mandatory rapid tests at the portof entry.

It is recommended that all travelers interested in visiting The Bahamas review requirements applicable to each member of their party before booking a trip, to determine what steps need to be taken to be granted entry.

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Grand Bahama Island ready to welcome visitors on October 15 Skip - eTurboNews | Trends | Travel News

Bank of The Bahamas hit by Central Bank’s 3-year bar – Bahamas Tribune

By NEIL HARTNELL

Tribune Business Editor

nhartnell@tribunemedia.net

Bank of The Bahamas top executive admitted its risk management had been poor as he revealed the Central Bank has blocked it from taking on new business borrowers for three-plus years.

Kenrick Brathwaite, the BISX-listed institutions managing director, told Tribune Business that events before his appointment meant it was unable to currently rebuild a commercial credit portfolio that he believes remains really critical to the banks future prospects.

We still have a restriction from the Central Bank with regard to new commercial credit. The restriction has been in place for the last three years, and we cannot take on any new commercial clients. Thats still continuing, he disclosed.

That part of the business, which is really critical to us in my evaluation, were not able to build. Thats because of history, and history suggests that weve not done the things we should have done with regard to risk. Wed like to start building more commercial relationships, but were still seeking the Central Banks authorisation.

Mr Brathwaite, who was appointed to the post some years after Bank of The Bahamas required two taxpayer-financed bail-outs to survive, is the first senior executive or board member at the government-majority owned institution to admit that risk management practices may have been at fault in the run-up to those events in 2014 and 2017.

Many observers, especially the Bank of The Bahamas minority shareholders who collectively hold just under 18 percent of its equity, will though likely regard Mr Brathwaites comments as an understatement given the spectacular destruction of investor value that left more than $144m in accumulated losses on its balance sheet at end-June 2020.

Besides risk management, the Central Bank also previously took Bank of The Bahamas to task for its heavy credit exposure to politically exposed persons or PEPS such as ex-Cabinet minister and MP, Leslie Miller, with whom it is locked in a court battle over $30.6m it alleges he owes over loans secured on the Summerwinds Plaza.

The taxpayer has also, at a conservative estimate, spent over $300m in propping up Bank of The Bahamas through a combination of the two bail-outs, which injected government bonds worth $100m and $167.6m, respectively, into its balance sheet, plus a $40m rights offering that had to be 100 percent acquired by the Public Treasury. The latter, together with the National Insurance Board (NIB), owns 82-plus percent of the bank on the governments behalf.

Bank of The Bahamas commercial loan portfolio shrunk by almost $5m during the 12 months to end-June 2020, according to its recently-released unaudited financial statements, finishing the year at $70.556m compared to $75.385m.

Mr Brathwaite said the bail-outs, which transferred many delinquent borrowers to the Bahamas Resolve work-out vehicle, had enabled Bank of the Bahamas to get rid of a lot of the toxic loans that previously plagued it.

That recent past has likely encouraged the Central Bank to keep the bar on new commercial lending in place, even though it restricted the banks loan book growth prior to COVID-19. And, while the BISX-listed institution has returned to regular - albeit reduced - profitability in the years following the 2017 bail-out, the pandemic and its fall-out threaten to reverse such gains.

Some $15.348m worth of loan loss provisions, in anticipation of COVID-linked borrower defaults, and a $6.316m impairment to the value of its government debt holdings due to the Moodys downgrade, produced a more than-$10m bottom line reverse that plunged Bank of The Bahamas into a $7.384m bottom line loss for its June 2020 financial year.

Mr Brathwaite said that while an economic rebound would enable Bank of The Bahamas to recover at least some of these provisions, he did not expect one to occur before the April-June 2021 quarter - the fourth in the banks financial year - at earliest.

He added that a significant chunk of the $1.85bn worth of commercial bank loans placed on deferral due to COVID-19 earlier this year, representing around one-third of all outstanding credit, could fall into default if the hotel and tourism industry did not rebound soon.

Were hoping at some point in time well be able to put this back, Mr Brathwaite said of the banks provisioning, noting that the $6.3m impairment related to Moodys would likely take longer to reverse given that this depends on an improvement in the Governments fiscal position. Were hoping that when this economy spins around well be able to reverse most of that provisioning thats affecting us tremendously.

Forty percent unemployment is going to be around for a while, he added. The hotels seem as if theyre not going to open up. We havent even begun to think of what it will look like in the banking industry if those hotels do not open.

Youre talking most of the $2bn becoming non-performing. A lot of that $2bn is government employees. I dont think its as critical as we think it is, but a lot of that $2bn will be hotel borrowing and its going to affect delinquency numbers for the entire industry.

Mr Brathwaite voiced hope that Bank of The Bahamas will be able to start reversing some of the loan loss provisioning during its 2021 financial years fourth quarter, but it remains the most vulnerable and exposed commercial bank due to its pre-COVID-19 problems.

For removing the $162.803m worth of bonds injected into its balance sheet would leave it with an $8m solvency deficiency, where liabilities exceed assets. Accumulated losses are again moving in the wrong direction, while almost one-quarter of its loan portfolio - some 23.78 percent - remains non-performing or more than 90 days past due.

Mr Brathwaite said Bank of The Bahamas loan portfolio will look a lot different once it either restructures delinquent loans or sells the residential properties that act as collateral for these mortgages. He added that the bank was gaining a windfall from its improved collections effort and sale of delinquent properties, and said: Were well on our way to improving the numbers.

The challenge is the percentage [of delinquent loans] is not changing because the portfolio is not growing. The lack of growth is keeping the percentage high even though the actual number as a dollar value is reducing.

The Bank of The Bahamas chief also pledged that COVID-19 will not derail the institutions turnaround strategy, although he acknowledged it had been set back by three to four months. He added that it remained focused on automating its systems, such as loans, debt management and accounting, as well as various credit and debit card-related plans.

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Bank of The Bahamas hit by Central Bank's 3-year bar - Bahamas Tribune

Central Bank of Bahamas : and the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce to Co-host a Virtual Presentation 14th October, 2020 – Marketscreener.com

Central Bank of The Bahamas and the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce to Co-host a Virtual Presentation - 14th October, 2020 Published: Wednesday October 7th, 2020

The Central Bank of The Bahamas and the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers' Confederation (BCCEC) will host a virtual presentation on Wednesday, 14th October, 2020. The virtual event is a followup to the BCCEC's February Power Breakfast, hosted by the Central Bank under the theme, 'PROJECT SAND DOLLAR: A Bahamas Payments System Modernisation Initiative.'

The Central Bank of The Bahamas will gradually release a digital version of the Bahamian dollar nationally outside of the pilot regions of Exuma and Abaco, through authorised financial institutions (AFIs), beginning on 20th October, 2020. This initiative has acquired the name Project Sand Dollar, with the sand dollar also being the name assigned to the central bank digital currency (CBDC).

The first phase of the national rollout, is focused on the immediate readiness within the private sector. As part of its engagement and outreach effort with key private stakeholders, the Central Bank and the BCCEC invite the Bahamian business community and other stakeholders to participate in the virtual session. This webinar aims to provide an overview of the gradual release of Sand Dollar, detail the requisite steps to ensure Sand Dollar readiness, and provide a forum to pose related questions directly to the Sand Dollar project leaders. Dedicated breakout sessions are available to merchants desirous of a one-on-one virtual meeting with the Central Bank.

The event will be moderated by Chairperson, Royann Dean, BCCEC Digital Transformation Committee. The panellists and representatives of the Central Bank are: Cleopatra Davis, Head of Department (Banking), Kimwood Mott, Project Manager Digital Currency Implementation, Sametria McKinney, Chief Information Security Officer, and Bobby Chen, Assistant Manager eSolutions.

The digital currency initiative has the support of the financial community, which welcomes the opportunity for financial inclusion of the unbanked and underbanked residents that Sand Dollar will provide. The AFIs currently participating in the project include clearing banks, money transmission businesses (MTBs), and payment service providers (PSPs). As the project expands, additional AFIs are expected to be on-boarded as Sand Dollar wallet providers.

The intended outcome of Project Sand Dollar is that all residents in The Bahamas would have use of a central bank digital currency, on a modernized technology platform, with an experience and convenience-legally and otherwise-that resembles cash. It is expected that this will allow for reduced service delivery costs, increased transactional efficiency, and an improved overall level of financial inclusion.

To register in advance for this webinar, please use this Zoom link(https://bit.ly/3iw1NZT). The event will also be carried live on the BCCEC's Facebook pageand shared on the Central Bank's Facebook pages, including SandDollar.BS.

Disclaimer

Central Bank of The Bahamas published this content on 07 October 2020 and is solely responsible for the information contained therein. Distributed by Public, unedited and unaltered, on 07 October 2020 19:19:04 UTC

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Central Bank of Bahamas : and the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce to Co-host a Virtual Presentation 14th October, 2020 - Marketscreener.com

Moore Bahamas Foundation announces next round of grants – EyeWitness News

NASSAU, BAHAMAS The Moore Bahamas Foundation (Moore Bahamas) yesterday announced new grants for Hurricane Dorian relief and recovery, bringing their contributions thus far to more than $700,000 as part of a million-dollar pledge by conservation philanthropist, Louis Bacon, for hurricane recovery.

Previous recovery grants focused primarily on emergency aid and relief, as well as rebuilding resilience.

The round of donations announced yesterday focuses on essential needs such as jobs and small business relief in Grand Bahama, food security in Nassau and Grand Bahama, and remote, at-home education tools for students.

The people of The Bahamas show amazing resilience as they continue to recover and rebuild from 2019s Hurricane Dorian, said Bacon, chairman of The Moore Charitable Foundation and Moore Bahamas, its local affiliate.

We are uniting as a global community to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. The added stresses of COVID-19 on businesses, livelihoods, families, and students have reinforced our commitment to supporting The Bahamas recovery efforts during this trying time.

Hurricane Dorians aftermath has been compounded by the impact of COVID-19.

Hunger and food security are the main threats to full recovery from the storm for both families and the broader economy. A grant was made to the Grand Bahama Food Distribution Task Force, a working group of the National Food Distribution Task Force organized by the Government of The Bahamas along with private sector partners.

The Grand Bahama Food Distribution Task Force is pleased to receive this generous donation from Moore Bahamas Foundation on behalf of the Feed Grand Bahama Program, Senator Kwasi Thompson, Minister of State for Grand Bahama.

Post-Hurricane Dorian many families have been challenged and with the Coronavirus pandemic and it has increased the vulnerable among us. It is the mandate of the Grand Bahama Food Task Force to assist the vulnerable and Moore Bahamas donation will help the Task Force in fulfilling this commitment.

Thompson continued: The Feed Grand Bahama Program started in late June and has issued over 26,000 food assistance vouchers. This donation will aid in meeting the increasing demand for food assistance.

We encourage others to contribute to this ongoing effort. No donation is too small. Once again on behalf of the people of Grand Bahama, I say thank you to the Moore Bahamas Foundation for their generous donation.

Support was also provided for small business relief through RISE Grand Bahama, a cooperative project of Mercy Corps, the American Red Cross, Bacardi, and the Grand Bahama Port Authority.

This support will allow the RISE (Restoring Industries and Sustaining Employment) Grand Bahama Initiative to provide bridge grants to particularly small and vulnerable businesses so they can stay afloat despite these extremely difficult operating circumstances, said Paula Miller, Mercy Corps Country Director in The Bahamas.

Moore Bahamas generosity will allow these businesses to continue to support their community with essential services and feed their own families.

In addition to the Grand Bahama Food Distribution Task Force and Mercy Corps, Dorian relief grants were made to Lend a Hand Bahamas, the Ranfurly Homes for Children, the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) Bahamas, Water Mission, the Bahamas Reef Environmental Education Foundation (BREEF), and the Briland Aid Foundation.

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Moore Bahamas Foundation announces next round of grants - EyeWitness News

CULTIVATE: Agriculture minister to lobby for local production of industrial hemp, CBD – EyeWitness News

Lets deal with what should not be a controversial issue, says PintardMinister: The longer we wait, the longer we miss opportunities

NASSAU, BAHAMAS Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries Michael Pintard said yesterday that he intends to lobby Cabinet to move forward with plans to cultivate industrial hemp and CBD in The Bahamas.

Pintards comments come amid longstanding public debate over the governments plans to decriminalize cannabis in The Bahamas following more than two years of consultation and a preliminary report by the Bahamas National Commission on Marijuana.

When asked about the matter during a press conference on his ministrys efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic, Pintard said the marijuana issue is under the purview of the prime minister and the commission.

He noted however that the opportunities for industrial hemp, a variety of cannabis sativa used for industrial uses of its derived products, and CBD, derived from the hemp plant, is non-controversial and advantageous.

That is something that has massive potential, Pintard said.

Weve had numerous meetings on it with investors, Bahamians and otherwise with respect to industrial hemp.

That is not what you smoke. You dont get highIt is used to produce a wide range of everyday products that you and I would use.

It is my intention to ask Cabinet that we proceed in terms of separating that until the question of cannabis has been settled.

The minister noted that similar opportunities exist for the cultivation of CBD anonintoxicatingcannabinoid found in the plant.

He said: We need to move on the things that are not controversial to a large extent, that have the potential to generate revenue, that others are taking advantage of, and the longer we wait for the longer we miss opportunities.

The commissions preliminary report on marijuana was leaked to the media in January and later tabled in Parliament in early February.

Among its 24 recommendations, the BNCM has advised the government to allow that prescribed medical cannabis to be able to grow sufficient plants for their use; to allow tourists who are prescribed medical cannabis in their countries to obtain it in The Bahamas, and to allow the importation of regulated cannabis products for ailments.

Cannabis possession would be decriminalized up to one ounce or less for personal use for people 21 years or older and laws would be amended for the immediate expungement of small possession criminal records.

The commission stopped short of recommending the legalization of recreational marijuana, insisting that the issue needs to be explored further before a consensus can be garnered.

Its final report was expected to be presented following a national survey to codify the views of the Bahamian public on the matter, however, the local spread of the virus has stalled the commissions work.

Eyewitness News reported on Wednesday thatthe commission will perform an extensive review on the 24 recommendationsas part of its final report.

Bahamas National Commission on Marijuana Co-Chair Quinn McCartney said: So, we will be looking at that in much more detail, those recommendations where there was clear support, certainly from the commissioners.

He continued: The commissioners are relooking at these 24 recommendations to provide more substance to what we have recommended in our preliminary report, supported by additional information that we may obtain, [and] certainly, information that we hope to garner from our survey.

We definitely still want to do the survey even though it may take a different [direction] in terms of how it is administered this time because of COVID-19 and the safety protocols.

The commission has been reconstituted until the end of June 2021.

Attorney General Carl Bethel told Eyewitness News recently that draftspersons were working on marijuana legislation.

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CULTIVATE: Agriculture minister to lobby for local production of industrial hemp, CBD - EyeWitness News

Early Human Impact: First People In Bahamas Caused Bird Extinctions, Displacement – International Business Times

KEY POINTS

Did the early humans really have a more harmonious relationship with the environment? A new study found that human arrival in the Bahamian islandsactually led to the loss and displacement of several bird species.

Humanity today is facing an extinction crisis, which many believe is caused by human actions quite unlike the previous mass extinctions that were caused by natural events. These actions include overfishing, deforestation, pollution and the burning of fossil fuels.

Does this necessarily mean those earlier humans without the tools for massive deforestation and harnessing fossil fuels were more harmonized with the environment? According to a newstudy, maybe not.

In a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), a pair of researchers studied over 7,600 fossils from 32 sites on 15 islands in the Bahamian Archipelago, logging a total of 137 species of migrant and resident birds.They found evidence that human arrival in the Bahamas some 1,000 years ago contributed to the displacement or evenextinctionof several bird species.

For instance, many bird species in the islands were still present about 900 years ago and possibly coexisted with humans for some time. But some of them eventually disappeared while others, such as the Abaco parrot, were kept to just one or two islands even when there are other islands in the area with similar environments, a University of California-Riverside (UC Riverside) news releasesaid.

Pictured: Bahamas coast. Photo: Yolanda Rolle/Pixabay

"We wondered why those parrots aren't found in the middle islands,"study co-lead Janet Franklin of the UC Riverside said in the news release. "It turns out, they were, not that long ago."

Based on the fossil data, the Abaco parrots were actually present on all the islands until 1,000 years ago, around the time when the humans arrived.

"Across the Bahamian Archipelago, at least 30 species and 62 populations of landbirds were lost during the dramatic climatic and environmental changes of the Pleistocene-to-Holocene transition,"the researchers wrote, noting human impact as the "most likely culprit"for the latest Holocene losses in Bahamian birds.

Rising sea level and storm severity could have also played a role but it's possible, researchers say, that predatory birds competed with the humans for food while the fruit-eating birds could have been hunted for food.

"The species here are the ones that survived,"Franklin said in the UC Riverside news release. "They might be more adaptable than other birds, and less dependent on a niche or habitat that's strongly affected by human activity. But they are still vulnerable and worth conserving."

Today, the bird communities in the Bahamian islands are rather fragmented and unfortunately still face an "uncertain future"despite having survived for many years. In more recent years, threats to the bird communities include severe hurricanes and more direct human impacts such as the building of infrastructure on their habitats. And with more and more people in the archipelago, the human impact continues to increase while non-native species are also being introduced.

Although the researchers note that it is "difficult to be optimistic"about the future of these birds, there are measures being taken to protect them.

"To end on a positive note, however, a solid system of national parks and nature reserves exists in the Bahamian Archipelago, thereby enhancing the overall resiliency to habitat loss,"the researchers wrote. "Furthermore, the populations of birds that still exist on Bahamian islands have a 1,000-y tradition of surviving alongside people. We wish them luck."

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Early Human Impact: First People In Bahamas Caused Bird Extinctions, Displacement - International Business Times

‘You can’t turn tourism on and off like the tap’ – Bahamas Tribune

'Mixed message' fear for November 1 re-open

COVID lockdown/curfew will 'sow visitor doubt'

Hotelier urges: 'Develop strategy and stick to it'

By NEIL HARTNELL

Tribune Business Editor

nhartnell@tribunemedia.net

A major hotelier yesterday voiced concern over the "mixed message" sent by the latest COVID-19 restrictions for November 1's re-opening, arguing: "You can't turn tourism on and off like a tap."

Magnus Alnebeck, the Grand Bahama-based Pelican Bay resort's general manager, told Tribune Business the weekend lockdown and extended curfew imposed on New Providence and Abaco by the Prime Minister were likely "to sow a little bit of doubt and confusion" in the minds of potential visitors mulling whether to travel to this nation once the 14-day quarantine is eliminated.

Arguing that the situation again highlights the need for The Bahamas to develop a clear strategy for its tourism re-opening "and stick to it", Mr Alnebeck said the tighter restrictions unveiled by Dr Minnis were likely to cause some discomfort in the global travel marketplace.

"Turn it around. Imagine you as a Bahamian are considering going to Fort Lauderdale on November 1, and tomorrow you see Florida has a 24-hour curfew this coming weekend two weeks before you are going to go there," the Pelican Bay chief explained. "Would you go ahead with your plans? You would say: Let's wait and see."

Suggesting that the measures unveiled yesterday "definitely do no good" for The Bahamas' ambitions to fully re-open its borders to international travellers on November 1 with the elimination of the mandatory 14-day quarantine, Mr Alnebeck said the strength of any rebound will depend heavily on how the tourism market react.

"The question of whether this hampers it or not, it's too early to tell," he added. "But as a consumer it must sow a little bit of confusion and doubt. To think we can turn this on and off like a tap, it doesn't work like that.

"People are very reluctant to travel, and the mixed messages about the situation doesn't make them any more comfortable. Let's try and come up with a plan we can stick with, and let's stick to it. Changing things too rapidly has been a problem for us over the last eight months. Open/close, change this, change that. I think we need to find out whatever our plan is and stick with it."

Giving specific example of where The Bahamas' messaging has been less than consistent since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Mr Alnebeck added: "We've had a problem in Grand Bahama where for weeks we are open and people who come to the island and want to go to the beach cannot do so after 12pm because they are told the beach is closed.

"Some of the things we are doing, like keeping the beaches closed, makes no sense. We all know what happened in July when we opened up for tourists but closed the beaches. The concern is how difficult it will be to send out the message that in three weeks we will be opening up now that Nassau is under weekend lockdown and curfew. Have we shown in the past that we stick to what we actually say?"

The Pelican Bay chief added that his resort had suffered cancellations as a result of the Government and Ministry of Tourism promoting the Bahamian hotel industry's re-opening on October 15, as this created the impression the Grand Bahama resort, tool, was closed even though it had remained open throughout the pandemic.

Pointing out that persons planning to come to The Bahamas in early November 2020 will be making their plans and bookings now, just as the Prime Minister announced new restrictions for New Providence and Abaco, Mr Alnebeck also questioned how comfortable travellers to the Family Islands will be transiting through Nassau.

Dr Minnis has given himself just three weeks to bring New Providence's COVID-19 surge under control as he yesterday reaffirmed that the November 1 deadline for re-opening The Bahamas' borders to international tourism, and the elimination of the 14-day mandatory quarantine, remains intact despite the new measures.

With timing rapidly running out, and new infections on New Providence running at between 50 to 100 per day or 500 per week, some observers believe with hindsight that the Prime Minister may have been correct to try an August lockdown.

However, its botched handling, which have residents too little time to prepare, resulted in the Government rapidly reversing course and re-opening the economy. After suggesting that no more lockdowns would be employed, and that COVID-19's so-called second surge was coming to an end, Dr Minnis has now performed yet another u-turn with the imposition of more restrictive measures.

As reported by Tribune Business on Tuesday, the Prime Minister yesterday opted for weekend lockdowns and an extended, earlier curfew on weekdays that begins at 7pm rather than the current 10pm on New Providence and Abaco with effect from this Friday.

While sea and airports will be allowed to operate normally, and travel continue uninterrupted with no disruption to flights, Dr Minnis said: "No food stores, pharmacies, gas stations, construction sites or laundromats will be permitted to operate during the full 24- hour weekend curfews.... Gas stations are not permitted to provide in-store services.

Calling on all Bahamians who can work remotely from home to do so, he added: "We have many reports of individuals in offices not wearing masks and not maintaining physical distancing, proper sanitisation and other health measures. Such practices are helping to spread the virus.

"I again make a strong appeal to those businesses that are not complying with health and safety guidelines to do so immediately..... As a part of our enforcement efforts, all fines for breaching health protocols, except for the mask violations, will be doubled.

"To encourage compliance with public health protection measures, there will be an amendment to the Emergency Powers Order that causes businesses to be closed for business on their second violation of the Orders. They will be closed for 14 days.

"If a business or construction site has an infection rate of ten percent of the full staff complement, the business or construction site will be closed, and all staff members will be quarantined for the prescribed incubation period of 14 days."

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'You can't turn tourism on and off like the tap' - Bahamas Tribune

PM: Unemployment benefits extended to December, another $45 million for COVID-19 support – EyeWitness News

NASSAU, BAHAMAS Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis today revealed that the government-funded unemployment benefits program will continue through December, adding that an additional $45 million has been allocated to COVID-19 support initiatives.

During a national address, Minnis said $10 million has been allocated to support the second phase of the national food program until the end of December.

This government-sponsored program is to ensure that Bahamians receive food assistance in a timely and responsible manner, he said.

Some $146 million has been poured into the domestic economy via unemployment assistance.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance K Peter Turnquest told Parliament last month that $15.4 million had been paid out under the unemployment assistance program to support self-employed persons. Those individuals would not ordinarily qualify for the unemployment benefit under the National Insurance Board (NIB).

The government also funded a special extension of unemployment benefits for unemployed persons who had exhausted their standard NIB benefit, with payments totaling just under $40 million.

The National Insurance Board has paid out over $90 million to-date.

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PM: Unemployment benefits extended to December, another $45 million for COVID-19 support - EyeWitness News

Dames: We are on the clock with voter register – EyeWitness News

NASSAU, BAHAMAS National Security Minister Marvin Dames acknowledged yesterday there is a race against the clock to make the decision regarding the current voter register, which is set to expire July 2021.

During a national security press conference on the efforts of the ministry during the COVID-19 pandemic, Parliamentary Commissioner Philip Turner presented a report outlining the challenges and recommendations of his department.

Turner advised that the pandemic has caused delays to the start of the National Voters Registration Exercise, originally scheduled for July, as well as delays to theLocal Government Elections in the Family Islands andtheSchool Board Elections.

He said he has made recommendations to the government to amend the Parliamentary Elections Act to replace the five-year voters register with a permanent or continuous register.

Turner explained the process would require maintaining the existing voter register, only registering new voters, transferring existing voters who have changed residence and removing the deceased and incarcerated from the current register.

He noted that consultations have been held with various stakeholders regarding the voter registration options, including the Cabinet of The Bahamas, the Free National Movement, the Progressive Liberal Party, the Democratic National Alliance, independents, the Bahamas Christian Council, the Bahamas Bar Association and over 100 members of civil society.

Asked how soon that decision could be made, Dames noted that the consultation phase is still ongoing.

He said Cabinet will await an update from the Parliamentary Commissioner before it makes a decision.

We are on the clock, Dames said.We ought to have started registration from July of this year.

We are now in October; we are cognizant of that. The register is still active and so we have to make some decisions.

Dames insisted that whatever the government decides, it will not disenfranchise anyone.

We are in the COVID-19 era, the minister said.

We are very cognizant of that, but we want every eligible voter to vote and for their vote to be counted.

We want everyone who is eligible to register. Whatever decision we make at the end of the day, that is at the forefront.

Voter turnout in the last general election was 88 percent with 160,409 registered voters casting their ballots.

A total of 181,543 people registered to vote.

Other jurisdictions have implemented alternatives to in-person registering and voting, using remote technologies such as online registration and voting by mail.

Turner further advised that there will be a clear plexiglass barrier between all registrants and Parliamentary Registration Department staff during the voters registration process.

The registration stations in New Providence will be at the BCPOU Hall, Grants Town Wesley Church Hall, Town Centre Mall Post Office, The Mall at Marathon, Cable Beach Post Office, Carmichael Road Post Office, and Elizabeth Estates Post Office, according to officials.

The registration stations in Grand Bahama will be inWest End,Hawksbill,Eight Mile Rock,Freeport andEast Grand Bahama.

Additionally, registration stations will be at each administrators office throughout the Family Islands.

The next general election in The Bahamas must be held no later than May 2022, Turner pointed out.

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Dames: We are on the clock with voter register - EyeWitness News

FACE TO FACE: Belinda learned from her mother – standing up for others and making their voices heard – Bahamas Tribune

By FELICITY DARVILLE

MANY schools, especially public schools in The Bahamas, had their first day of school yesterday. It also happened to be World Teachers Day - the 26th annual day honouring teachers globally. This years theme was: Teachers leading in crisis reimagining the future.

In the view of a global pandemic, teachers are facing their most difficult time yet. The new school year is quite different from any other year, and schools are having to embrace the digital age like never before. The challenge in The Bahamas is complicated by the fact that at least a hundred teachers are in quarantine at this moment. In spite of it all, Bahamas Union of Teachers (BUT) president Belinda Wilson is confident her members are up to the task, but they will need as much support as possible.

I reimagine a future in education and teaching where teachers will be respected, honoured, and where our voices will be heard, Belinda said.

I reimagine a future where teachers will be seen as the experts and the architects of our educational system. Thirty-two million teachers in 192 countries are celebrating. In this COVID-19 pandemic environment, be strong, be resilient. We will and we can succeed; we will make it. In Bahamas, I want to say to teachers, solidarity forever!

Belinda has given her life to the cause of teachers in The Bahamas. She has played an active role in the BUT for the past 26 years, and continues to go strong. She has served as the unions president since 2008 and she is the longest-serving in this post. She is also BUTs longest-serving executive officer, and the third woman to serve as president, the first being the renowned educator Mabel Walker who led the union in 1947. Prior to COVID-19, Belinda and her executive team were at the table with the Ministry of Education negotiating the fourth collective bargaining agreement that she has taken part in. She has been co-lead for one and has taken the lead for three.

In 2012, we were able to get medical insurance for our members, she said.

Our terms and conditions of service, as well as having a better quality of education for students these are always on our mind and reflected in our industrial agreement.

Her monumental journey in the teachers union started in 1994. She was teaching physical education at CC Sweeting Junior High (now TA Thompson Junior High) under the great Leonard Boston Blackie Miller. Many find it surprising that a woman with a Masters degree in curriculum and instruction from the University of St Thomas, a Bachelors degree in English Language from St Augustines University in Raleigh, North Carolina, trained to teach English Language and Literature at the College of The Bahamas, would choose to teach physical education.

Belinda replied: Why? Because it is an easy fit for me. I spent three months teaching English Language and Literature when I went to the Ministry of Education to request a transfer to teach physical education. I felt closed in. It didnt suit me. I like to move; I am upbeat and active.

She showed athletic prowess from a young girl. Born on Ross Corner, this Farm Road girl is the ninth of 11 children born to Reverend Basil and Maria Johnson. She attended Woodcock Primary before attending St Johns College for high school.

Principal Arlene Nash Ferguson once held a competition at the school, which Belinda won. She is to thank for the name The Green Giants that students shout at competitions today. While at St Johns, Belinda not only excelled in academics, but also at athletics. She made records at the school in track events like the 400 and 800 metres, and long jump. She participated in numerous sports, including softball.

It was for this sport that she was granted a full scholarship to St Augustines, thanks to Cynthia Mother Pratt and Tom The Bird Grant, who helped hundreds of Bahamian students have the opportunity to study there. She enjoyed a full ride from 1991 to 1994, and played outfield in softball consistently for the college, which is now a university. She also wrote for the school newspaper, and graduated Magna Cum Laude, completing her degree in three years instead of four.

It was May of 1994 and Belinda was about to graduate. Her boyfriend, Arnold Wilson, had flown over to the graduation, but he also intended to propose. Unfortunately, Arnold lost the ring! Bewildered by the event, he ended up telling his love what had happened, and they went back to the mall where he thought he had dropped it. Lo and behold, the ring was still on the floor of the shop where he dropped it. It was carefully wrapped in a napkin. The fact that the napkin was still on the floor in the spot he dropped it was a sign to the couple that they were meant to be together. Twenty-six years later, they are still in love and going strong with a beautiful daughter, Nika, Belinda says. They got married at 11am on May 7, 1994 and at 12 noon, Belinda was walking across the stage in her cap and gown.

That same year, she started at CC Sweeting Junior and was elected a shop steward for her counterparts at the school. She taught there for five years before moving on to CV Bethel Senior High, and she was one of the pioneering teachers who were among the first to work at the new school. By 2003, Belinda went on to assist in the opening of another new school Dame Doris Johnson Senior High. She became the first Teacher of the Year for the school, and also received the Excel award for Coach of the Year.

She credits her first go at teaching to Bishop Neil Ellis, who made contact with the late great Rev Charles Saunders, requesting an opportunity for her to work at what was then the Bahamas Baptist College, now named after Rev Saunders. She says her first students are now 48 and 49-years-old, making great contributions to the country, which gives her great joy and pride. She and her family continue to attend Mount Tabor Church under Bishop Ellis to this day.

Her strong faith, she said, was nurtured by her parents: I thank my parents for teaching us the way of the Lord. My dad woke us up at 5am to pray every day. We went to church and Sunday school. On December 31, 1989 I accepted the Lord and I am a true believer. My husband is also a quiet, but prayerful man. He provided a safe, comfortable, loving home and whenever I have a rough day, I can go home to the loving arms of my husband. He is my rock and a pillar of strength. My daughter is quiet like him, but very observant. My siblings and some of my cousins and close friends have also been a pillar of strength for me in my life.

Her mother also made a tremendous impact on her, as she learned to be an activist under her wings: I must have followed in my moms footsteps. We spent a lot of time with her at the Bahamas Hotel Catering and Allied Workers Union. She was a chief shop steward for 18 consecutive years there. We were on the ground with her when they demonstrated, and we watched her take a stand for others.

Belinda - who was a shop steward from 1994-1996 and a trustee from 1996-1999, found it necessary to take that same type of stand for others when she attended a union meeting back in 2004: I never wanted to be president; I never even thought about it. But I attended a certain meeting and holy hell, as they say, came up in me. I saw what was happening in that meeting and I thought the teachers deserved better representation. I decided to seek out certain individuals and convince them to run with me for the new executive team. Among them was Ida Turnquest. She was to run for the president position and I would run for secretary general. She said yes. We ran with a small team, but our team was successful.

During the following BUT elections in 2008, Ida decided that she did not want to run, so Belinda made the decision to run for the post. Later on, Ida had changed her mind. So she ended up running against Belinda along with Francis Friend and Byron Small for the position of president. Belinda won. She has been at the helm ever since. She considers herself in good company, as the BUT has had some outstanding persons in leadership, including Carlton Francis and former Governor General Dame Ivy Dumont, who was the unions first secretary general. The union has a rich legacy and on January 10, 2018, a document was produced in this regard. It is a booklet commemorating the oral history of the BUT, written and edited by Patricia Roker and designed by Sheila Bethell.

Belinda has the honour of having the BUTs multi-purpose building in Grand Bahama named in her honour the Belinda Wilson Convention Center. Two executive committees voted on and approved the name. It commemorates a woman who continues to be at the forefront of the fight for the rights of teachers. In addition, hundreds of teachers have benefitted from local and international training under her leadership. Union members benefit from Christmas bonuses, and they also have retirement and death benefits.

I am very proud to be representing the teachers of this nation, she said, It is the profession of professions.

It is an honour and privilege for me to serve them for such a long time. I have made so many friends and I have so many relationships with colleagues and associates that will last a lifetime. I enjoy life and I have a passion for what I do. There is something inside of me I get very upset when I watch people being taken advantage of and when people are treated unfairly. It causes me to want to push and advocate even more for the rights not only of teachers, but people in general. I intend to serve my country and be a voice for the voiceless without fear or favour as long as I have breath.

There were some highs and lows in Belindas tenure. Among them, she was suspended several times by executive committee. In 2017, she went to the Supreme Court to plead for her place on the ballot. The court ruled in her favour, and she won her way back to the presidency by more than 1400 votes.

I have learned that you have people who for and those who are against you. After running and being successful seven times, I realise theres more with me than against me. I am honoured to have served the teachers for so many years and we are still going strong!

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FACE TO FACE: Belinda learned from her mother - standing up for others and making their voices heard - Bahamas Tribune

Hotel union will not push for Atlantis redundancies, says Woods – EyeWitness News

NASSAU, BAHAMAS Bahamas Hotel Catering & Allied Workers Union (BHCAWU) president Darrin Woods said yesterday that the union would not be pushing for redundancies on behalf of furloughed Atlantis employees, this as scores of the resorts workers gathered in protest to demand their severance pay.

Woods told Eyewitness News: We have a provision in our agreement that allows for persons to be made redundant.

Thats their right. We arent going to advance redundancies on behalf of people because we know that for hospitality workers, their salaries are so low, once they get that lump sum, then what?

Reforms to the Employment Act in 2017 mandate that once workers have been sent home for a 13-weekperiod or 90-day period, an employer has to either to recall themto workor terminate them with full compensation as required by law.

Woods noted that as a result of the emergency orders redundancy provisions requiring local businesses to pay fullseveranceto furloughed workers has been suspended, until the end of November.

Woods said that the union has not been in concert with the government on the move.

The union has had no discussion with the governmenton that, he said.

We are still waiting on a meeting with the government to discuss COVID-19 and its effects on tourism. We want to see exactly what the plans are for the reopening of the industry as a whole.

We want to see a workable plan for people to get back to work. Its a difficult situation.

We understand the frustration but at the end of the day, what do you do? We have not seen the real fall-out from this pandemic.

Will people be prepared to travel? We still dont know when all is said and done what kind of numbers we will see in terms of reopening the tourism sector.

Tourism Minister Dionisio DAguilar yesterday also acknowledged that the issue of redundancy was a difficult one.

He told Eyewitness News: Obviously its a very difficult situation. You have a hotel that has now been closed since March.

All businesses that have been closed this long have been facing economic hardship and cash flow problems.

While I understand the employees are concerned and that this is a vexing situation, a number of businesses have been saying to us if we have to pay this demand we will go bankrupt.

It is very difficult to determine what to do.

He added: I really want Atlantis to reopen, for people to get back to work and the business can pay. That is what I have been focusing on.

Atlantis has indicated they are very interested in considering an opening in the very short term. To me, that [is] the best goal to get tourism ramped up and people back to work. If you get your severance, there is a finality in that. When that money runs out, then what? While people may be considering the short term gain Im looking long term.

Senator Fred Mitchell, Opposition spokesman on Labor said in a brief statement yesterday that the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) supports the just demands of the Atlantis workers for their redundancy pay.

The PLP left in place a law to protect workers from being laid off endlessly, he said.

The FNM changed the law using their emergency powers. This has worked an injustice on the workers at Atlantis.

The government ought to intervene to ensure that the workers get their money.

Atlantis president and managing director Audrey Oswell said in a letter to employees last week that the resort still does not have a firm reopening date.

Oswell said the resort had secured additional funds to help ensure the long-term financial stability of the company, adding the funds will allow the resort to provide partial vacation payments to furloughed employees.

Oswell also acknowledged calls for redundancies and said the resort has thoroughly reviewed and considered a scenario where certain roles are eliminated as it waited out the reopening of the resort.

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Hotel union will not push for Atlantis redundancies, says Woods - EyeWitness News

Islands slam ‘oversight’ on rapid COVID testing – Bahamas Tribune

By YOURI KEMP

Tribune Business Reporter

ykemp@tribunemedia.net

Cat Island and Long Island resorts have branded the governments decision not to have COVID-19 testing at their ports of entry a major oversight.

Carl Rolle, general manager of Rollezz Villas Beach Resort on Cat Island, told Tribune Business: I think we have the correct professional people out here to do that quick test. It is just like taking your blood pressure, so I dont see why we are overlooked, but we are trying to address that situation because for the way forward, if you dont have that, it is going to be a problem.

We want to keep the place safe, but its a difficult task. The thing is if you do it in the correct way it will be for the long-term and not the short-term. I believe that if you take the correct action, the Bahamian people will be happy and blessed by it. But if you just try to show immediate results, and then have to come back and repeat your actions, it is not a good thing.

Matthew Brear, general manager of Cape Santa Maria Resort on Long Island, added that the islands tourism, hospitality and resort sectors were working with their MP, Adrian Gibson, to address its non-inclusion among the ports of entry where tourists will receive rapid COVID-19 antigen tests upon arrival.

Were working with our MP on this currently, Mr Brear said. Again, we opened and ran successfully for almost the entire month of July with no quarantine, but still adhering to all safety protocols as outlined by health officials.

There were zero issues with no quarantine. I think people may be forgetting that the cases spiked primarily as a result of the local population flocking to Florida at the spike of that particular states first wave. Tourism was not the primary cause of the current COVID situation within The Bahamas. We have got plenty of reservations today, though, for the coming months as a result of the last announcement.

The Ministry of Tourism, in long-flagged changes, revealed late last Thursday that it has switched the 14-day quarantine that forced visitors to remain in place - either at a hotel, on a boat or some other accommodation - for increased rapid antigen once they arrive in The Bahamas and during their stay.

Besides removing the Vacation in Place quarantine beginning on November 1, which coincides with the run-up to the Thanksgiving holiday and winter tourism season, The Bahamas has sought to further incentivise travel by increasing the time given to visitors to obtain a negative COVID-19 PCR test before they travel from the present five days to seven days.

While this test, detailing the result plus name and address of the laboratory involved, will still be required along with The Bahamas Health Travel Visa, visitors will now undergo a COVID-19 rapid antigen test at specified air and sea ports of entry when they arrive in The Bahamas.

And tourists staying in The Bahamas for longer than four nights and five days will be required to take a second COVID-19 antigen test. This allows short-stay visitors to avoid a second test, with the cost of these tests - which can produce results in 20 minutes or less - included in the health visa.

The government, though, has identified only specific airports and seaports where COVID-19 antigen tests will be available. No locations were provided in the southern Bahamas, with the likes of San Salvador, Cat Island and Long Island excluded from the list. Nassau; Freeport; Marsh Harbour; North Eleuthera; Georgetown (Exuma); Bimini (and Cat Cay); and San Andros are the approved airports.

As for seaports and marinas, the selected venues are Nassau (Atlantis, Bay Street Marina, Lyford Cay and Albany); Grand Bahama (West End Old Bahama Bay and Freeport Lucaya); Abaco (Marsh Harbour government dock); Eleuthera (Spanish Wells marina); Berry Islands (Chubb Cay Club); Bimini (Big Game Club and Cat Cay Club); Exuma (Georgetown government dock).

It is likely that the Government, with scarce technical, financial and human resources, is testing the new COVID-19 health protocols at its busiest ports of entry before rolling the initiative out to other islands. The thinking is also likely to be that many stopover visitors headed to the likes of Cat Island and Long Island will transit through Nassau first, and thus take their on-arrival test there.

However, that could create complications for long-stay visitors remaining in The Bahamas beyond four days/five nights or 96 hours, as they will be required to take another COVID-19 antigen test.

Aton Mackey, general manager of Cat Islands Hawks Nest Resort and Marina, said: Right now were closed. The resort is closed, so I havent really been following a lot because I have been busy with maintenance and preparation for re-opening. The marina is always open, but it is just that the hotel and the restaurant is closed.

He added of the 14-day quarantines elimination come November 1: Thats a good thing. That means we can have some traffic come through here because were hurting. We expect to open right before Thanksgiving. I had people call and they were talking about the quarantine period, so now that thats lifted Im going to get some traffic here.

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Islands slam 'oversight' on rapid COVID testing - Bahamas Tribune

Several govt. ministries and agencies closed amid confirmed COVID cases – EyeWitness News

NASSAU, BAHAMAS The Cabinet Office has announced a series of closures of government ministries and agencies for cleaning and sanitization due to the presence of staff members testing positive for COVID-19.

According to a statement, the Ministry of Public Service and National Insurance, and the Public Service Commission closed its offices at the Meeting and Augusta Streets Complex Wednesday and will reopen today at the normal time.

The Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture advised that the National Sports Authority closed for cleaning and sanitization of its premises and will not reopen until next week Wednesday.

The Ministry of Transport and Local Government also announced the closure of the South Beach Post Office to facilitate the appropriate cleaning and sanitizing.

The post office location will be closed until October 20.

Postal services will continue on Monday through Friday between 9am and 3pm at the General Post Office at Town Center Malls, and all other sub-offices on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

Additionally, the Cabinet Office also advised that the Department of Inland Revenue on Carmichael Road closed its office until further notice.

All services are available remotely from http://www.vat.revenue.gov.bs, read the statement.

For the convenience of the public, taxpayers can log into their accounts and through the accounts dashboard request services.

All other non-account holders can reach the department via telephone at 225-7280 or taxinquiries@bahamas.gov.bs.

The Department of Inland Revenue apologizes to the public for any inconvenience caused by its closure.

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Employed persons urged to withdraw from food assistance – EyeWitness News

NASSAU, BAHAMAS Across The Bahamas employed persons continue to show up for food assistance.

Food Assistance Task Force Chair, Susan Larson, has called on people to withdraw from the program.In a statement, she said: The task force was designed by the prime minister to assist the most vulnerable people in our country; people who were impacted by Hurricane Dorian and persons whose employment status was disrupted because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As people return to work, we are calling on them to withdraw from the program.The Food Assistance distribution program is driven by the data captured when a person registers on the RAPID database.

Employment data is requested as part of registration.

Larson said: As the economy has reopened, persons have not necessarily updated their employment status and they continue to present themselves for food assistance.There are several consequences of this, she explained. Highest on the list is that help for the countrys most vulnerable people is compromised.

Another implication is the time it takes for the task force to verify persons who have presented themselves for assistance.

This makes wait times on food lines unnecessarily long.The task force is very mindful that access to food is a basic human right and that makes helping people in need a sensitive matter.

We are calling on those people who have been fortunate enough to return to work, to update their employment status and withdraw.The Food Task Force was instituted by the prime minister and began food assistance in late May.

Since then, the government has injected $16 million into theprogram.

The non-governmental organizations that are members of the task force and function as zone leaders for food distribution have contributed significantly to the program.

Of the NGOs, Larson said: They have gone well beyond their obligations and supplemented their nearly $3 million cash contributions with thousands of hours donated by staff and volunteers.On September 17, Minister of Social Services FrankieCampbell announced that the food assistance program was being extended to October 31.

Noting the end date of thecurrentprogram is four weeks away, Larson said: People need to understand that thisphase of theprogram will be coming to an end.

Going forward,whatwe need to do is to focus on those persons who remain unemployed and help them.

If youve returned to work, please be guided by your conscience and withdraw so we can help those who are truly in need.She acknowledged the need will not evaporate overnight and said the task force was discussing trends and recommendations with the Office of the Prime Minister.

The Government recently approved additional funding for the next phase of the program to service the most vulnerable persons until December 2020.

The shape and scope of that assistance is being finalized.

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Employed persons urged to withdraw from food assistance - EyeWitness News

Local comedian charged with inciting a riot and disorderly behavior – EyeWitness News

NASSAU, BAHAMAS A popular local comedian was arraigned in the Magistrates Court yesterday on charges of provoking a riot.

Wellington Roberts Jr., 35, of Churchill Avenue, who appeared before Magistrate Samuel McKinney, was charged with one count of disorderly behavior and one count of inciting a riot.

He pleaded not guilty to both charges.

On Wednesday, Roberts was among scores of demonstrators, including furloughed Atlantis employees, who attempted to march over the Paradise Island Bridge and to Parliament Square, but were prevented by police.

Many of those demonstrators then moved downtown and waited for the prime minister to leave Parliament in an effort to voice their concerns.

Roberts was denied bail and advised of his right to apply for bail in the Supreme Court.

His attorney Devard Francis applied for bail on his behalf.

Robert is expected to return to court on November 13 for trial.

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Local comedian charged with inciting a riot and disorderly behavior - EyeWitness News

Gov’t ‘lacked interest’ in early COVID test offer – Bahamas Tribune

Ex-minister confirms governance group's approach

ORG said proposal made 'months ago' not acted on

Adds faster testing regime may have eased crisis

By NEIL HARTNELL

Tribune Business Editor

nhartnell@tribunemedia.net

A former Cabinet minister last night confirmed the Government showed "no interest" in a proposal made "months ago" to significantly ramp-up COVID-19 testing during the pandemic's early stages.

Dr Duane Sands, ex-minister of health, backed assertions by Robert Myers, the Organisation for Responsible Governance's (ORG) principal, that the group had offered a testing solution to the Government but received no encouragement to take it forward,.

"Robert and I have been talking about this for some time," the Elizabeth MP said of COVID-19 testing. "This has been evolving." Recalling ORG's earlier proposal, he added: "There was no interest. Now there's quite a bit of interest. I think it's much needed, but at the time there was no interest."

He spoke out after Mr Myers earlier this week disclosed that the ORG proposal, which is separate and distinct from the private sector-driven Living With COVID Coalition (LWCC) solution and testing regime being developed now, did not get the necessary support from the Minnis administration.

"Believe me, the Cabinet was presented with that proposal months ago and it didn't happen," Mr Myers said of the need to introduce widespread antigen testing for COVID-19 in The Bahamas. "Now we've presented it again [through LWCC] but it's still not a mandatory requirement.

"We're going on the good graces and sensibility of accepting businesses to do something. It should have been done months ago when we first talked about it. We couldn't get them to take it up. We don't know why. That should have been done months ago. The impetus just wasn't there. Now the impetus is there."

Mr Myers said that proposal, submitted in ORG's name, offered a "lower cost" RT-PCR rest to the Government with results produced in 24 hours, backed by the more rapid antigen test that would be used by employers to test their workers. "People would have had access to a more reasonable price," he added of the ORG offer.

Many observers believe lack of testing capacity has been a major contributor to COVID-19's so-called second wave spread in The Bahamas, with results from the PCR test taking too long to come back and determine who has the virus before they spread it to others.

Dr Sands' confirmation of Mr Myers' revelations indicates the Government was slow to react to the need for ramped-up testing, seemingly believing it had contained COVID-19 in The Bahamas via a series of lockdowns and other restrictions prior to the July 1 border re-opening.

"Had they employed a faster testing regime much earlier in this pandemic I don't think we'd be where we are," Mr Myers said. "The problem is that we've not been doing enough testing or rapid testing that gets people quarantined and out of the spreading environment."

The Prime Minister's inconsistent response to COVID-19 has caused increased frustration and anxiety among many Bahamians, having performed a rapid u-turn on his August lockdown and subsequently suggesting that no such measures would be needed again as the 'second wave' appeared to be easing, only to reverse course again this week.

"It's devastating for businesses, absolutely devastating," Mr Myers said of the restrictions unveiled this week. "They were only just getting some traction back, and now they've been shut down again. It's got to be devastating for restaurants, gyms and anything like that.

"We've got to do something to get this under control, but can't do it by hope. My position is that over the next two to three weeks until November 1 we've got an opportunity, but we have to get serious about the violators and get serious about rapid testing."

LWCC is developing a technology-based screening and testing regime that will allow government entities, businesses, non-governmental organisations and churches to better protect their staff and customers from the pandemic.

The structure, which LWCC hopes to launch by mid to end-October, is designed to give all Bahamas-based entities, whether in the private or public sector, affordable access to relatively cheap mass testing that would be able to provide results within 15 minutes.

Arguing that this will be "700-800 times' more efficient" and rapid than the present testing regime, Mr Myers said earlier this week that it was designed to minimise "workplace disruption" by enabling employers to instantly detect which staff were COVID-19 positive and remove them from their premises to quarantine.

Those who prove negative can immediately be dispatched back to work, he explained, improving company productivity while also allowing industries and firms to develop their own specific COVID-19 health and safety protocols and target which staff need to be tested more frequently.

While this regime will only be available to those signing-up with the Coalition, there are no fees for joining. Instead, companies have to sign-up with its electronic platform, state how many testing kits they will require and pay for those.

"This proposal is being acted upon completely independent of the Government," Mr Myers said of LWCC's initiative. "We said to hell with it, we've got to do something and have to do it ourselves. We have to do a better job of rapid testing and getting infected people out of the workforce and community. It's the only way of getting ahead of this. It's the only way it's going to happen."

Dr Sands, who backed LWCC's efforts, said it taken "the addition of 50 percent more testing capacity to reach where we are now and we're still not there". Acknowledging that the "pendulum is moving" in favour of increased COVID-19 testing, he urged the coalition to "flesh out" its plans.

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Gov't 'lacked interest' in early COVID test offer - Bahamas Tribune

One year after Dorian: Restoring hope to the Bahamas – Palm Beach Post

Nancy Maass Kinnally| Special to The Palm Beach Post

On Dec. 11, 1937, Vernon Malone was born a stones throw from the waters edge, in a wooden house with no electricity and no refrigeration, tucked inside the mouth of Hope Town Harbour.

His father, Edward Malone, had floated the house over by boat from a company town called Wilson City just south of Marsh Harbour, Great Abaco, Bahamas, where it had housed employees of the recently defunct Bahamas Timber Company. He reassembled it to serve as a home where he and his wife could raise their family, which eventually included Vernon and six siblings.

As a young man, Vernon helped his father build a new house on the same land in the mid-1950s, all by hand. And he and his wife Barbara in turn raised their own family there, supported by the small business he launched in 1962, Vernons Grocery and Upper Crust Bakery, located just a block away, across the towns ball field.

On Sept. 1, 2019, after 81 years of living in the same spot, Vernon became something he never imagined he would be homeless.

Hurricane Dorian had shoved the ruins of three buildings including a house that had stood on Eagle Rock in the middle of the entrance to the harbor onto his.

My poor little house couldnt stand all that pressure from the wind and the water and all that debris, Vernon said.

All that remains of the house now is one wall, which includes a fireplace inside of which he now stores a few belongings Dorian spared.

Now 82, Vernon is back behind the register of his tiny grocery and bakery, where he and Barbara rode out the storm, while she stays with family in Boynton Beach waiting for a third Malone family home to rise on the little parcel near the harbor.

This time, Vernon wont be doing the building.

Vernons new home will be built by Hope Town United, a charity operated out of Delray Beach and run by eighth-generation Hope Town natives Brian Malone, who is Vernons son, and Frank Knowles, along with Matt Winslow, a second homeowner whose family has been the largest donor toward Hope Towns recovery from Dorian through their Sands Family Foundation.

The charity born in response to Dorians devastation has accomplished much in its first year, from evacuating 250 residents in the storms immediate aftermath to rebuilding two of the islands three public docks and its primary school, to developing a comprehensive plan to create a resilient, renewable energy grid and attracting investors to build it.

Homes for Hope, which will build homes for local families who lost theirs in the hurricane, is Hope Town Uniteds latest initiative.

Seneca Moss Reynolds of North Palm Beach is Hope Town Uniteds development director. She said the organization has raised about $3 million of the $8 million it needs for the restoration of the docks and school and the construction of the Abaco Community Care Center, as well as several more homes like Vernons.

But just as no one could have been prepared for a Cat 5 storm to park itself over the northern Bahamas for two days, no one could have predicted that a global pandemic would follow less than six months later, ultimately bringing international and even most inter-island travel to a halt.

In spite of Dorians 200-mph winds, 20-foot storm surge and more than a dozen tornadoes that spun off the eye wall, no one died during the hurricane on Elbow Cay, where the historic settlement of Hope Town is located. And so far, no one has died of the coronavirus, but the damage to the local, tourism-based economy from the one-two punch has been devastating.

Currently, only construction crews already on Elbow Cay can continue to rebuild, along with those locals who either stayed or returned before the Bahamas shut down.

Im hoping that very soon this pandemic will run its course and well be able to get started, because its no fun being homeless, said Vernon, who has bounced from family homes in Florida and Virginia to a West Palm Beach hotel to his brothers house, church property and two homes belonging to second homeowners in Hope Town.

Ive lived in seven different places since the hurricane, he said. The place I have now I have for a year, so hopefully well have something built by that time.

New homes will be as strong as concrete bomb shelters

Hope Town residents have always maintained the historic architectural character of the homes built by British Loyalists, including Vernons ancestor and original settler Wyannie Malone, who arrived on Elbow Cay in 1785, having left South Carolina in the wake of the American Revolution.

Vernons new one-story, one-bedroom house will be made of concrete with a Hardie board exterior resembling wood siding and a cedar shingle roof, so it will be hurricane-resistant while still retaining the historic look of the Loyalist cottages that have made Hope Town famous.

Garrett Graue, president of Delray-based Seagate Construction Group, is project manager for all of Hope Town Uniteds reconstruction projects.

He described the homes they will be building as like a concrete bomb shelter in terms of their strength, albeit much more attractive. On Vernons house, they will work to incorporate the wall and fireplace that are still standing, but the designs will otherwise be simple and somewhat standard, while keeping with the historical integrity of the settlement.

He has a crew beginning work on the harbors third public dock, and he expects the school to be complete by November.

Hope Town Primary School Principal Justin Higgs expects 40 to 50 of the schools 70 students to be back for the new school year, which begins Sept. 21 in the Bahamas, a few weeks behind the normal schedule due to COVID-19.

The rest have remained in Nassau or stayed virtually enrolled in the school they attended in the U.S., he said.

Most homes still dont have power

Vernon Malones power was turned on about six weeks ago, and hes one of the lucky ones.

Although the Bahamian utility, BPL, is providing limited power from generators connected to a partially reconstructed local power grid, most homes are so damaged, residents cant connect to it.

Its going to be a long time for some people, said Vernon, who had to replace all his homes boxes before he could plug in.

Hope Town used to get its power from a plant on Great Abaco via undersea cable, but that cable has yet to be restored. Hope Town Uniteds plan would keep Hope Town connected to the BPL grid, but supplement it with community-owned solar power and natural gas backup power, with the power lines being buried so they would not be susceptible to high winds.

We have a plan and we have investors, and were just waiting for permission from the Bahamian government to proceed, Brian Malone said.

Deb Patterson, who serves on the Hope Town District Council, is one of the many residents still living without power.

To take a shower I have to unplug an extension cord from one place and use it for the water pump, she said. I have no hot water. I havent had a hot shower in six months.

Pattersons bread and butter job is office administrator for the Elbow Reef Lighthouse Society, which is raising money to restore Hope Towns iconic, candy-striped lighthouse, which is vital to the community for its tourism value, but perhaps just as importantly, as a symbol of its perseverance.

Since July 3, shes been going without pay, and like many, living off of her savings and accepting food donations from IDEA Relief, as she toils to rebuild her island.

We started receiving a weekly box of food: a bag of rice, some grits, tuna, an apple or two, an orange or two, corned beef. If you literally had no money, in order to prevent starvation, this bag of food would probably keep a family of four alive, she said.

In spite of the daily struggles, her outlook has changed dramatically in the last year.

The day I left here, which was Sept. 8, I didnt think I would ever come back. I didnt think it was fixable. There was so much carnage, she said. There is so much hope now.

She discovered that the meaning of the name Dorian is gift, and she now sees an opportunity for Hope Town to emerge stronger.

I see us now rising better than before, wanting to build resiliently and with forethought.

HOW TO HELP

In addition to homes, docks and a school, Hope Town United is building Abaco Community Care Center, a private, community-based medical center, with partners Hope Town Rising and Flagler Health. Flagler Health, a St. Augustine-based hospital, has pledged to support the new medical facility, for which land has been donated by another family foundation.

Donations to Hope Town United can be made online at http://www.hopetownunited.org/donate or by contacting Seneca Moss Reynolds, director of development, at seneca@hopetownunited.org or (561) 313-5355.

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One year after Dorian: Restoring hope to the Bahamas - Palm Beach Post


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