NASSAU, Bahamas – The Bahamas government has implemented the first in a proposed series of weekend lockdown of the country from this weekend warning nationals that “unless you are an identified essential worker, you may not leave your place of residence for any purpose other than to seek urgent medical care or to purchase food or medicine”.
Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis said that health officials have made a series of recommendations to control and reduce the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), including “but not limited to the closure of domestic borders, discontinuing indoor and outdoor dining, restricting social gatherings, weekend lockdowns and a full national lockdown”.
He said after much consideration, his administration has determined a way forward that takes into account the grave health crisis and the need to provide economic survival.
“Public health officials are closely monitoring indicators to determine whether more or less stringent measures will be required going forward. The major indicators include the increase in the number of cases, the increase in the number of hospitalizations and the availability of ICU beds.”
He said as of Friday night, a weekend lockdown will be implemented for all islands of The Bahamas, excluding Grand Bahama which is currently in lockdown.
He said while grocery stores, pharmacies and gas stations will be allowed to operate for the public during this weekend’s lockdown during a lockdown, “unless you are an identified essential worker, you may not leave your place of residence for any purpose other than to seek urgent medical care or to purchase food or medicine.
“You may exercise within your immediate property only. Essential workers will be permitted to provide critical services, including the National Food Distribution Task Force and other NGOs for food distribution purposes,” Minnis said, adding “we will remove weekend lockdowns and other restrictions on an island by island basis.
“To be clear, construction will be allowed to continue this weekend, including reconstruction on the island of Abaco and its cays. The transportation of inter – island freight may continue. Persons collecting freight must seek approval from the Royal Bahamas Police Force hotline on their respective islands.”
Minnis said that funerals that were planned for this weekend may continue, but at the graveside only and limited to five people, including the officiant.
He said weddings that were planned for this weekend will also be permitted with a maximum number of five people including the officiant.
“We anticipate more weekend lockdowns going forward until the health indicators suggest that it is safe to do otherwise,” Minnis said, adding that as of Monday, commercial activity will continue as normal on all islands of The Bahamas with the exception of Grand Bahama which is currently in a full lockdown.
He said that a new curfew from 7.00 pm to 5.00 am (local time) will be implemented and that all business activity must be completed by 6.00 pm.
Minnis said that from Tuesday, inter – island travel will be discontinued and before the 7.00 pm deadline, all travellers returning to the Family Islands from New Providence and other islands where COVID- 19 is present, will be required to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival.
“We are fighting a battle on two fronts. All of us must hold the line together. The fight for the health and lives of our citizens comes first and foremost. A t the same time we are fighting on the economic for the financial security of every family.
“The reality is we will rebuild our economy and will recover fully. As a country we must grow stronger together, protect each other and hold out for us all. We will advance, but now we must hold a strong line and never retreat from fighting this disease,” Minnis added.
He said that the actions taken by the government have been constitutional and in the best interest of Bahamians.
“We have exercised the lawful powers given under the constitution and laws of The Bahamas,” he said, noting that early data indicate that of the Bahamians tested positive, a significant number had a travel history.
“We blame the problems we face on the virus. The virus disrupted our way of life and caused sickness and death. And it has done so around the world. It is up to us as citizens, Government and as businesses to do all we can to minimize spread. This is a fast developing crisis.”
But Minnis said that Bahamians must be responsible as individuals and follow the social responsibility rules.
“We should not allow the easing of various restrictions to lead us to do things we might regret and that might harm others. I want to make a very strong plea to Bahamians and residents considering or planning to travel overseas for nonessential travel — to not go overseas at this time.
“If you are thinking of travelling for non – essential or emergency reasons, please, I beg you, stay at home at this time. Please stay at home,” Minnis said, noting that a number of the cities Bahamians and residents like to frequent in neighbouring countries and cities are experiencing a dramatic rise in COVID – 19 cases.
“Many of these are hotspots where this very contagious virus is widespread. If you travel to these areas and go to malls, sho ps, restaurants and other establishments you might catch the virus. You could bring the virus home and community spread could start again.
“Let me be as clear as I can: Your actions can damage the health of others and your actions could help worsen our economy if we have to lockdown again,” Miniss said.
Bahamas has recorded 316 cases and 11 deaths from the virus that was first detected in China last December.