NASSAU – Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis will temporarily serve as Minister of Health, Cabinet Office announced yesterday in a terse press statement.
The revelation of who will succeed Dr Duane Sands as health minister came much later in the day than expected. It was not until late in the evening following a lengthy cabinet session that the Cabinet Office released two sentences on the matter.
After announcing his acceptance of Dr Sands’ resignation letter on Monday, Dr Minnis said he would “make a further statement on this matter (on Tuesday), including on who will serve as Minister of Health.”
However, outside of the announcement about the new health minister, there was no other comment about the controversy that led to Dr Sands’ ouster from Cabinet.
Dr Minnis served as health minister in the last Ingraham administration from 2007 to 2012.
Dr Sands laid low yesterday and did not answer The Tribune’s calls. However, on his Facebook page he posted a five-minute video featuring film and photographs from his time as health minister.
Pointedly, the video began with footage of him during a radio interview in which he said: “In each of those events, you learn a little bit more and a little bit more and a little bit more but that doesn’t mean that you know everything…As long as when you go to bed at night you can say you know I have honestly done the best that I could do to acknowledge the things that you did wrong and attempt to correct them, you can’t do no better than that and you got to be willing to let the chips fall where they may.”
Sources close to him told The Tribune he is determined not to let the COVID-19 flight fiasco signal the end to his political career and is expected to focus on the Elizabeth constituency.
The Elizabeth MP offered his resignation to Dr Minnis for his actions related to six permanent residents who landed in the country last week with COVID-19 testing supplies and were allowed to quarantine at home before they produced a negative COVID-19 test result.
Former Tourism Minister Obie Wilchcombe connected Dr Sands with donors who supplied 2,500 test swabs that cost $11,250, prompting an effort by the health minister to get the swabs here.
Dr Sands got approval from Tourism Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar for a N-578GC aircraft to deliver the supplies to the country.
He then contacted Immigration Director Clarence Russell who arranged his requests for the passengers.
The controversial episode is not the first time people have been allowed to disembark in the country since Dr Minnis implemented a lockdown several weeks ago, though officials have resisted telling this newspaper exactly how many have been granted entry since the lockdown began.
Mr D’Aguilar told Dr Sands officials had been insisting that people coming to the country provide a negative COVID-19 test to gain entry. The Freetown MP deferred to the health minister to make the call and Dr Sands allowed the passengers entry without testing them. During his national address on Sunday, Dr Minnis suggested this was at least part of the breach––the residents were allowed entry without being tested. (The Tribune)
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