Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis says the coronavirus (COVID-19) is “nowhere near exhausted” and appealed to Bahamians to continue to follow the protocols and measures aimed at curbing the spread of the virus that has killed 96 people and infected 4,220 others here since the first case was detected in March.
“I know that you are sick and tired of COVID-19. It continues to harm and to frustrate our lives. It has kept us away from loved ones and our routines. COVID-19 is exhausting our patience and continues to cause massive and unprecedented disruption.
“Global and national economies are still in a dire state. But despite all of this, the virus is nowhere near exhausted. It is as aggressive, it is as powerful, and it is as deadly as ever. Because of this, we must be as vigilant as ever,” Minnis said in a national broadcast.
He said that some countries have gone back to targeted lockdowns or more restrictive curfews and other measures needed to address the high number of infections, hospitalizations and, sadly, deaths.
“Lockdowns are hard on family life; they’re hard on businesses and individual’s finances; they’re hard on people’s mental health. When virus cases increase, governments first try to utilize other restrictive measures. But, if cases rise exponentially and virus spread is out of control, governments often have no choice but to order a lockdown to save lives,” said Minnis, who has also announced that he would be further addressing the issue in Parliament on Wednesday.
He said that the Bahamas has no choice but to institute measures aimed at curbing the spread of the virus that was first detected in China last December and blamed for 1.04 million deaths and 35.2 million infections worldwide.
“We have no choice, because our lives and livelihoods are at stake. We all remain vulnerable.
Fellow Bahamians and Residents: I wish to note some areas of progress, as well as areas of great concern.
“We are encouraged by the progress on Grand Bahama and the majority of Family Islands, but the restrictive measures currently in place are not achieving the desired results for New Providence and Abaco. One in every 100 residents of New Providence is now infected with COVID-19,” Minnis said, noting that it is clear that “some of us are not taking this global pandemic seriously”.
Minnis said that reports and videos of large Junkanoo rush-outs, socializing and large gatherings show that many have let their guards down.
“This has to stop if we are going to return to some sense of normalcy with any consistency. Sadly, we are now averaging one death per day and our medical facilities have now reached capacity. I again offer condolences to the families and friends of those who have died. “
Minnis said that while the Bahamas has experienced a higher number of deaths in this second wave, the case fatality ratio, which estimates the proportion of deaths among identified cases fits into the range of the global case fatality rate by country which stands between one and 25 per cent.
”As of Saturday the 3rdof October, there were 96 confirmed deaths related to COVID-19. Because the number of cases on the majority of our Family Islands and Grand Bahama have been low over the past few weeks, this has allowed for more opening up so these residents could get back to a greater level of normalcy.
“The major problem we face is on New Providence, our most populated island, where cases remain at an elevated level. The elevated New Providence numbers mirror the current challenge countries face worldwide managing the virus,” Minnis said, adding that he had held discussions with the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) and World Health Organization (WHO).
He said over the next two days discussions will also be held with the executive members of the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers’ Confederation, members of the National COVID-19 Coordinating Committee, and other key stakeholders to discuss specific strategies and the way forward.
Minnis said that the opposition has also been invited to participate in the deliberations following which “I will brief the nation on the recommendations of our health experts, especially on the way forward for New Providence and Abaco”.
But Minnis insisted that there must be a recommitment to full compliance on New Providence “because the current elevated number of cases is straining our hospital and health care systems.
“Remember, as a people, we have a poor health profile. We have serious problems with obesity, hypertension and diabetes. People who have these conditions do poorly when infected with the virus. The more physically distant we are, the more we wear our masks properly, the fewer people will be infected. This would help to give our hospital staff more time and resources to treat the people already in wards without having to manage additional patients.”
He said the s simple message given earlier in the pandemic is as relevant today, adding “If you don’t have to be out, stay at home.
“When you are out be physically distant and wear your masks properly. That means the mask should stay over your nose and mouth at all times. A person of any age could have this virus. You must not let your guards down because of how close people are to you. If you have reason to visit relatives or close friends, you must still follow the guidelines. Our data show that infection in the home is a main point of virus transmission.”
Minnis said that as his administration continues the fight against COVID 19, tit is also continuing with its efforts to help to support the most vulnerable in society.
He said that an additional US$45 million have been allocated for projects, in particular, Government-funded unemployment benefits will continue through December.
“Additionally, US$10 million dollars have been allocated for a second phase of the national food programme to the end of December 2020. This is a government-sponsored programme to ensure that Bahamians receive food assistance in a timely and responsible manner.”
Minnis said that the government’s Economic Recovery Committee (ERC) has completed their substantive research and consultative work and has presented to Cabinet an Executive Summary Report that details an estimated 163 recommendations on a range of subject areas to spur economic recovery and sustained economic health.
The ERC and its sub-committees consulted with 60 companies and organizations and had the benefit of 300 submissions sent to it from Bahamians across the entire country,” Minnis said, thanking the committee “for providing the government with dozens of insightful, thoughtful and progressive ideas to move our Bahamas forward.
“The Committee certainly took to heart my admonishment to be bold and innovative. Their recommendations reflect well-considered and well-researched concepts that will guide discussions of policy development in the country for many years to come. Some of the areas covered in the report of the ERC include: -Ideas around the establishment of independently managed national funds that can better mobilize private and public sector,” Minnis told the nation.