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‘I went to a lockdown party’, resident admits

EyeWitness News CoronavirusMay 11, 2020 at 3:53 am Royston Jones Jr.

Similar events popping up across the island

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — As the country continues to shoulder a 24-hour curfew, some residents have opted to shirk emergency measures by staging lockdown parties.

Jane Smith, 22, an eastern New Providence resident, admitted she attended an unplanned “lockdown party” on Friday after a friend wishing to celebrate an upcoming birthday rented a room at a boutique hotel in western New Providence.

Smith, whose name has been changed, said at least eight women and two men gathered at the pool.

The guests did not wear facial masks, according to Smith, who said while she arrived wearing one, she promptly took it off after the group began taking shots of alcohol.

According to Smith, two other guests were also celebrating recent birthdays.

“She wanted to do a little gathering before the weekend lockdown,” Smith said.

“We went to the hotel. When we reached, we met two other girls from Nassau celebrating their birthday. We didn’t know them. We met them there.

“Now, it was just girls initially. It was about 10 of us. And like I said, it wasn’t planned.

“Because of the different people who were there, everyone invited one or two persons.

“It wasn’t intended to be a party or large gathering.

“It was just girls and then two guys showed up.

“They brought some more bottles and we partied.

“But it was more of a chill thing, not a hyped-up thing.

“It was just to hang out. We talked a lot and we were able to relate on different levels because everyone expressed themselves and told stories about their experiences.

“Everyone got connected and we exchanged numbers before it was time to go because the lockdown was at 9pm, so we left like two hours before the lockdown.”

Despite the ban against social gathering and the six-feet distance requirements, Smith said in the pool setting social distancing was not followed.

Asked whether the hotel’s management enquired or objected to the gathering, Smith said the group was left uninterrupted.

Smith, who has been unable to work since March, said it was worth the risk, explaining that after strict adherence to the emergency orders, social distancing, 24-hour curfew and weekend lockdown for weeks, she felt bouts of depression, loneliness and derealization.

Asked about the risk of being caught and the potential of becoming infected without knowing the COVID status of the other attendees, Smith paused.

She continued: “Honestly, we were on lockdown for weeks right. And just to get out there; I mean to get on the road it was scary because I don’t have no $10,000 or $20,000 to blow, just to give the government.

“But I put two five-gallon waters in my backseat and if police stopped me, I’d say I was getting water. I had my story.

“But, I felt like it was worth it, especially for me because we made connections and… as women, we need people to talk to.

“…It definitely help my state of mind; the connection; the environment change, and to have someone there to talk to. Do you know what it is to be alone for weeks?

“Honestly, I was going out of my mind. I did a lot of working out and exercising, but what I realized since being locked down, I have been thinking a lot and it just felt unreal sometimes. I felt that derealization.

“At times, I woke up and it felt so fake and my anxiety attacks were coming more often. I tried to distract myself, but it has a major effect on you staying inside for weeks.”

Gatherings of more than 10 people was banned in March.

Those restrictions were tightened after the introduction of the 24-hour curfew and weekend lockdowns, both of which remain in effect until the end of May.

Residents can only leave their homes for essential services or exempted businesses — a list that has grown in recent days — and only essential workers may leave their homes during lockdowns.

In an effort to curb the spread of the virus, public health officials have encouraged strict compliance with the emergency measures.

Notwithstanding the measures, similar events and small gatherings have taken place in recent weeks, according to sources, including at least one Paradise Island property owner, who was forced to call authorities last week.

According to the condominium owner, whose complex is governed by a home owners association, a group of at least 10 men and women, and several children, were congregating in and around the pool of the property for the third consecutive day.

He did not recognize any of the attendees and was concerned about the public health risk and breach of the orders.

“It was actually three days of activities really,” the owner told Eyewitness News Saturday.

“The final day was really the ultimate when the crowd got bigger and it looked like they had invited others.

“When they got here first, it was maybe four or five people, and I said ‘hey, who are these new people’. The first couple of days it was two girls and two guys and a young child, and then it went to about 10 or 12 on the third night. My guess was they booked it (a rental) was their last night because I have not seen them since then.

“I was concerned about the breach of the lockdown requirements, social distancing etc.”

The owner contacted authorities, who visited the property sometime later to enquire.

However, the group had already left the pool when police arrived, the owner said.

Several of the homes in the complex are advertised on Airbnb.

According to several other sources, some residents have sought to rent Airbnb properties, particularly those with pools or access to private beaches to hold small gatherings.

Over the weekend, the Department of Gender and Family Affairs acknowledged that national lockdowns and curfews remain new for families and some people continue to “struggle to obey with the emergency orders”.

“Some persons are angry, sad, uncomfortable and depressed about staying home for so many hours and days,” the department said.

“Sometimes these feelings of stress due to restricted movement increase violence within the family.

“Some members of the family may experience may experience more arguments, fights, disagreements and challenges.”

The department, which has encouraged residents to remain at home, issued a COVID-19 national survey to determine how families have been coping amid the pandemic.

As of Sunday, there were 92 confirmed cases of COVID-19; 11 COVID-19-related deaths; 44 active cases; seven hospitalized cases; and 37 recovered cases.

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