NASSAU, Bahamas – The Bahamas government says it is lifting the lockdown imposed on several islands in the archipelago a week ago as part of the efforts to curb the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19).
Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis in a national broadcast, said that the lifting of the restrictions on Mayaguana; Inagua; Crooked Island, Acklins; Long Cay; Long Island; Rum Cay; and Ragged Island is based on the advice of the health experts that the “restrictions for public health purposes will not extend beyond what is thought to be absolutely necessary.”
“I am announcing today that based on the advice of health officials, normal commercial and social activity, including church services and the opening of beaches and parks, may resume” on those islands.
Minnis said that the lock down and curfew have been lifted for these islands because health officials have not recorded any suspected COVID-19 activity at these locations for at least two weeks.
“Though there are no confirmed cases on San Salvador, a travel-related swab is pending test results.
Further assessment is required for this island before it can be given the all clear. Travel between the islands where the lockdown has been lifted will be permitted without the COVID-19 testing and 14-day quarantine requirements that are outlined in the Emergency Powers Order,” Minnis said.
He said that his administration, guided by the advice of health officials, will continue to monitor and assess COVID-19 developments on each island and determine, on a case by case basis, when it is safe to relax measures.
But he noted that health officials providing the latest situation on Grand Bahama, noted that the COVID-19 outbreak there, is still not under control.
“In fact, it is very grave. I beg you in Grand Bahama, please, give the process more time. We have beaten this before, and can do so again, together. You have expressed concern about access to food stores, given unique challenges that some continue to experience as they recover from Hurricane Dorian.
“As such, like Abaco, your shopping days will return to Monday thru Friday for the general public. On Saturday, the hours will also be extended for essential workers,” Minnis said, as he paid particular attention to the lockdown conditions for Abaco and its Cays.
“Over this past weekend, additional unique provisions were announced for Abaco and its Cays, including the addition of days to allow for grocery shopping and restaurant curb side and takeaway services.
“Abaco is still rebuilding from the devastation of Hurricane Dorian. Some residents do not have access to the resources available during normal circumstances. These provisions have been made to accommodate the unique circumstances on the island and its cays created by the ongoing recovery and reconstruction efforts related to Hurricane Dorian.”
Minnis said that throughout the pandemic, Abaco and Grand Bahama have been permitted to continue construction, have some access to hardware and have access to gas stations to fuel generators.
“There is a genuine effort to consider the needs of our people, while seeking to restore the health of the nation,” he said.
“For the remainder of The Bahamas, our observations over the first few days of the lockdown reveal that there is a genuine need for greater access to food stores. We are hopeful the following changes will help this, while not compromising the public health objective.”
He said these include extension of food store hours to 7.00 pm (local time) on Monday, Wednesday and Friday; the extension of food store hours to 6.00 pm on Saturday for essential workers; and enabling food stores to restock on Tuesday, Thursday and now Sunday, to ensure that shelves are fully stocked for the designated shopping days.
Minnis said that the Bahamas Pharmaceutical Association as well as members of the public, have raised issues and that his administration would continue discussions with the health professionals on their issues.
Minnis warned citizens that they must be prepared for a “long journey ahead with this virus” urging them also “not to be misled by conspiracy theories, fake news magical thinking and fake therapies.
“We have to learn to live with this virus until there is a vaccine, pursuing the best policies and behaviours to allow commerce and interaction while also limiting infections. You all know the public health advice: be physically distant; wear yours mask properly; wash and sanitize your hands regularly; and do not attend mass gatherings.
“As a government we must learn from the policies we introduced that require adjustment. Let me be very clear on this point: I do not like lockdowns. I am also a businessman. I understand that small businesses are the heart and soul of our economy. Lockdowns disproportionately hurt small businesses.
“I also know that lockdowns have an adverse effect on mental health and our emotional well-being. We are social creatures. We need our friends, colleagues and loved ones as part of a meaningful life,” said Minnis, who is also a medical practitioner, adding “we use lockdowns as a last resort.
“When cases get out of control and no other measure would work, then we move to a lockdown. With Dorian hitting a year ago and now the pandemic, our nation faces the most difficult period in our lifetime.
To call this time unprecedented is an understatement. We must all work in unison through behaviour, thought, practice and policy to prevent the spread of the virus and to renew our land.”
Minnis warned that selfish or misguided action by any one could put the whole nation at risk.
“That’s how serious the times are. I once again express my heartfelt thanks and appreciation to the vast majority of Bahamians of all ages and circumstances who have demonstrated understanding and exercised great discipline in this struggle,” he added.
Latest figure show that the country has recorded 898 positive cases of the virus with 22 deaths. There are 777 active cases of COVID-19, including 35 in hospital.