By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Chief journalist of the tribune
BAHAMAS Hotel Catering and Allied Workers Union President Darrin Woods said with the country now receiving an increase in visitor arrivals, union officials would have liked the mandatory mask mandate for hotels to remain for several more weeks.
Over the weekend, the Department of Health and Welfare announced several relaxations, including those regarding the wearing of masks in hotels and casinos.
A person is not required to wear a face covering in a hotel lobby, hallway or casino or in any outdoor setting where there is at least three feet of space between people who are not of the same household, the ministry said. .
However, Mr Woods said there were differing opinions when it came to the new mask rule.
“Well, I guess mixed feelings because we’re hoping the data they’re relying on is something to rely on, but we still want our people to be careful because we don’t want a situation where we will back down to appease a certain group of people,” Mr Woods told The Tribune yesterday when contacted.
“We think all of the due diligence is underway, but again, we still think we should just take it one step at a time as we start to relax some things and be cautious.”
Asked if the union was of the opinion that the mask mandate should have remained for a few more weeks, he replied: “Yes, for a few more weeks to be sure. Yes, the numbers say one thing, but of course we now have an influx of visitors. So there is a slight uptick and we don’t know exactly where they’re coming from because there are still hot spots in a few markets where people are coming from.
“Even in some states in the US where they’ve gone to these no-mask mandates, you have a bit of a relapse. So we just want to be careful where we’re going, especially in the hospitality industry, because we know how volatile it is without any outside forces against it.
Some international reports have indicated that parts of Europe that have rushed to ease restrictions in recent weeks are now seeing an upsurge in pandemic risks.
This has been accelerated by the emergence of BA.2 – a more transmissible strain of the Omicron variant, which experts say spreads faster.
On Tuesday, Germany set a new infection rate record for the fourth day in a row, while Austria is also believed to have hit new highs and cases in the Netherlands have doubled since restrictions were lifted on February 25. .
China is also experiencing a resurgence and has had to lock down several provinces due to an increase in COVID-19 cases.
The Ministry of Health has said that people with disabilities or people with specified medical conditions are not required to wear a mask provided they have in their possession a medical certificate or a letter signed by a doctor proving the existence of such disability or medical condition.
The ministry also reminded members of the public to wear face coverings when away from home and in the company of people outside of their household.
FNM president and former health minister Dr. Duane Sands said the new mask rules were discriminatory.
“There may be or they may cite differences in vaccination rates and so on, but you know, give Bahamians the courtesy of at least sharing with them the basis of your decision-making,” Dr Sands said. . “Show some respect for the intellect of Bahamians as opposed to something that was blatantly discriminatory.”
He added: “We note with interest the changes that have been made. We find it very interesting that the virus behaves differently in hotels and casinos than in businesses in the Bahamas, but more importantly, we asked for the data that underpins these decisions and to date it has not been provided. So, while we hope and wish the best for Bahamians, we do not know on what basis these decisions were made.