NASSAU, Bahamas – Prime Minister of Bahamas, Dr. Hubert Minnis says while the Bahamas has made progress in the fight against the coronavirus (COVID-19) the country cannot afford to let its guard down as he announced plans for the gradual re-opening of sections of the local economy.
Minnis in a radio and television broadcast on Sunday said that the 24-hour curfew will continue as will the lockdowns from Friday 9.00 pm to Monday 5.00 am.
“We have to continue to wear our masks to practice physical distancing as well as to wash our hands thoroughly along with other measures,” he said.
To date the Bahamas has recorded 83 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and that Minnis said based on the progress being made, his administration has agreed from Monday to move into the first phase of the re-opening of the economy. He said this phase will focus on delivery and curbside service and construction.
“This phased re-opening is aimed at striking the right balance between permitting some further level of commerce to resume while still maintaining a vigilant national position promoting physical distancing and reinforcing the health and safety precautions necessary to mitigate community spread of COVID-19.
“The objective of the first phase is to stimulate businesses through economic activity and to meet needs important to the population during this health crisis,” he added.
Prime Minister Minnis said that as of Monday, businesses that can provide goods and services through delivery and curbside pick-up will be able to do so Monday through Friday from 8.00 am to 5.00 pm (local time) and that construction on New Providence and Grand Bahama will be allowed to operate 12 hours beginning at 7.00 am.
He said home and hardware stores, plant nurseries and auto parts stores may expand to five-day online delivery and curbside services if they have the capacity. This is in addition to the in-store days those stores are currently allowed to operate.
He said businesses should use gloves and other protocols in handling and delivery of goods and interaction with customers and that proper physical distancing and sanitizing measures must be practiced at all times.
Minnis said the phased plan for reopening of the economy and the islands that make up the archipelago, is a guideline noting “we will have to be flexible in the application of the guidelines.
“If advised by our health officials to do so we may have to go back to certain restrictions. If we are making more progress we may be able to ease certain restrictions quicker.”
Minnis said that the opening of various Family Islands was set to begin in Phase Two, but his administration has decided to gradually reopen the Family Islands by zone, starting on Monday in the Southern Bahamas.
He said a number of islands, including Ragged Island, Rum Cay, Mayaguana, Inagua, Crooked Island,
Acklins and Long Cay.nds will be able to resume normal commercial activity effective Monday.
“Border restrictions as it relates to the travel of passengers in the Family Islands remain except for emergency and other circumstances which must be approved by the Civil Aviation Authority. However, residents of New Providence who are currently in the islands just mentioned, will be allowed to return to New Providence.”
Minnis said that curfew and lockdown measures remain in effect for all Family Islands, including the zones that have returned to normal commercial activity.
During his address, Prime Minnis made reference to an incident last week involving some residents who flew by private aircraft to New Providence and brought COVID-19 test kits with them.
He said the protocol for allowing Bahamians and legal residents to enter the country at this time was breached last week.
“I have now been informed that instead of the stated two permanent residents who were allowed to disembark and remain in the country that it was actually six permanent residents, who are all related.
“All of these individuals have tested negative for COVID-19 and will remain under a mandatory 14-day quarantine.”
Minnis said that the Minister of Health will issue a statement on this matter.
“Let me be clear about the protocol for Bahamians and residents wishing to return to The Bahamas. Citizens and legal residents of The Bahamas, the latter with a home in The Bahamas, will be permitted entry into The Bahamas via air travel to New Providence or Grand Bahama unless approved otherwise.
“Those individuals in these categories are to make contact with the nearest Bahamas Embassy or Consulate to them. Aircraft and airlines proposing to carry such individuals are required to make flight applications in the normal course to the Department of Civil Aviation,” he added.
He said each person will be required to obtain a RT-PCR COVID 19 molecular diagnostic test from an accredited lab prior to returning, unless otherwise approved to have the test administered upon arrival.
“As some individuals returning from Florida have indicated they are having a difficulty in obtaining this test, we are helping to facilitate them in obtaining the diagnostic test.”
Minnis said that the test results, identifying particulars and contact information of each returning individual will be submitted to the Office of the Chief Medical Officer, Ministry of Health.
“All those returning will be required to be quarantined for fourteen days, in a government quarantined facility or self-quarantined,” Minnis added.