China virus could hit Pointe finish

By EARYEL BOWLEG

ebowleg@tribunemedia.net

THE Pointe’s developer, China Construction America (CCA), is worried that the travel ban on people from China due to the deadly coronavirus outbreak will affect the timely completion of the resort’s construction, according to a Chinese Embassy official.

Embassy spokesman Yin Haigang said yesterday that “dozens” of workers have not been able to come back into the country as a result of the ban. He revealed that the Chinese Embassy in Nassau was “very busy” talking to the relevant Bahamian government agencies to resolve the issue of Chinese workers stuck in China.

“Some workers who are working on the project of The Pointe – they just cannot come back from China,” the spokesman said. “So the CCA is worried very much about the timely completion of this project at this time. So the embassy will talk about this with the Immigration Department.”

Director of Labour John Pinder gave an assurance in January that the $200 million development is set for completion in the second quarter of this year.

Last month, it was announced non-residents will be denied entry in the country if they have visited China within the last 20 days. On Tuesday, Minister of Immigration Elsworth Johnson said in view of the deadly virus, work permits will not be granted to anyone coming from China as one person could “wreak havoc” in the Bahamas. He did not say how long this policy will remain in place.

Embassy officials will host a press conference today to talk about the travel ban and the Department of Immigration’s recent ban on work permits, the spokesman said.

“It’s our position that we understand that the Bahamian government is seeking measures to protect the Bahamian people and that’s quite understandable. We also refer to the recommendation of (the) World Health Organisation to the different departments of the Bahamian government, including the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Tourism, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs,” the embassy official said.

“We believe that any measures taken by the Bahamian government should be based on the recommendation of the World Health Organisation and should not overreact. We do not want to see normal people-to-people exchange and the normal economic cooperation be impacted by those measures.”

The 2019 coronavirus has killed at least 1,115 people and sickened more than 45,000 worldwide. While several Bahamians who have recently visited China are in local quarantine, officials have said there is no suspected or confirmed case of the virus locally.

The Pointe has grabbed headlines recently over the ratio of foreign workers to Bahamians. In the heads of agreement between China Construction America (CCA) and the government, it states that 70 percent of the workers are supposed to be Bahamian and 30 percent should be foreign.

However, a recent Department of Labour inspection report uncovered 229 Chinese workers and only 90 Bahamians; 35 people of other nationalities were working on the site as well as two Bahamian companies.

When asked about this, Mr Haigang said: “Our position is that there is an agreement between the Chinese company and the I think Ministry of Labour. Of course the agreement should be respected by the company. The embassy always encourages the Chinese company to hire as many as possible local workers.”