NASSAU, Bahamas – The Bahamas government indicating that the number of persons who may have contracted the coronavirus (COVID-19) and have died may be much higher than the official figures suggest, has announced new measures curb what it has described as “our worst crisis in our history as a sovereign nation”.
In a nationwide broadcast on Monday night, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis said that there were persons who were still not taking the virus seriously and as a result the new measures were designed to curtail the constitutional rights and freedoms in the public’s interest and for public safety.
“Indeed, our Founders fathers wisely placed in our constitution provisions allowing the Governor General to declare proclamations of emergency. Such proclamations exist to allow the Government to act to protect the people in times of great national crisis. We are in such a time. In this pandemic we face our worst crisis in our history as a sovereign nation,” Minnis said.
He warned that of the government did not have the Emergency Powers, “there would be mass death in The Bahamas beyond the imagination of most.
“Those who tell you the Emergency Powers are not necessary are unserious and dead wrong. The Government uses the Emergency Powers to enforce provisions that save lives. This virus has caused so much death across our hemisphere. Watching the international news there are stories of young people in neighbouring countries whose entire households have died from COVID-19. No more mother or father. No more grandparents. Just a child or two children left alone after the virus took away everyone else,” Minnis said.
He said the government would continue to aggressively respond to this killer virus.COVID-19, but that it “will continue to spread uncontrollably if we do not immediately take more aggressive and comprehensive measures, most of which are also being taken by other countries”.
Minnis said that he fully appreciate that the burden of many of these measures on the population “but I assure you, they are being taken to save the lives of you and your loved ones, and to restore our economy and society as much as possible during this global pandemic.
“This is my solemn and constitutional duty as your Prime Minister. We are in an emergency. The surge in cases has put exceptional strain on our healthcare system. We must act now, and aggressively to prevent our healthcare system from collapsing. If our hospitals collapse, we will have many more deaths.”
Minnis said that latest figures show that the country now has 1, 329 cases of the virus after 14 new cases were reported over the last 24 hours.
He said New Providence continues to have the highest number of cases -731- and as a result despite the ongoing regulations and lockdown measures, more restrictive measures are absolutely necessary in order to bring the virus under control especially on New Providence.
“Health indicators on New Providence show a very large number of new cases, an increase in hospitalizations and unfortunately an increase in deaths. If further restrictive measures are not taken to control and to slow the spread of COVID-19 on New Providence at this time, it will take a very long time to bring the virus under control
“The sooner we bring the virus under control the shorter the time will be to return to few restrictive measures. Unfortunately, too many people are not taking the current lockdowns and health measures seriously.
Minnis said that some people are even having socials and parties.
“The virus is spreading rapidly because of the failure of many to adhere to life-saving and preventative measures. But I also again acknowledge and thank all of those who have followed the health guidelines over the many months.Thank you sincerely for your cooperation.
Tonight, I am announcing further measures to more aggressively battle COVID-19 in New Providence. The restrictions I am about to announce will apply for a period of seven days. They are effective immediately. At the end of seven days, health officials will make an assessment, and a determination taken on whether an extension is required.”
Minnis said that the new measures will include public healthcare, all hospitals and, for emergencies, private medical facilities continuing to operate and that public offices will be closed except for essential staff.
He said public oficers are to work remotely, except those who have expressly been identified in the Orders as essential workers or identified by the permanent secretaries of their respective ministries.
He said construction will be permitted and financial institutions which are required to carry out urgent transactions from within the institution may contact the 311 hotline for permission to travel to and from the office.
International shipping, freight forwarders and domestic freight will be permitted to continue. However, goods and supplies are to be stored during this period.
If approval is needed in an emergency for businesses to collect such items, businessesmust contact 311 hotline for permission.
Minnis said that everyone who wishes to move in the case of an emergency must contact the Royal Bahamas Police Force.
“Let me say again: If an individual does not have a valid reason or approval to be on the streets, they will be fined. Persons who tend to sheltered or farm animals will be permitted to do so.
However, they will be required to contact the Royal Bahamas Police Force 311 number when they are required to be on the streets
“Subsistence and commercial fishing from New Providence is discontinued during this period. Graveside funerals, which had been previously planned and scheduled during this period, may continue. Weddings will not be permitted during this period. Churches may continue to live stream from their premises on Saturday and Sunday, with a maximum of ten persons present at the sanctuary.
“These persons will be required to contact the Royal Bahamas Police Force before departing to go on the streets,” Minnis said, adding that there will be no international flights or vessels permitted to enter New Providence.
“Only in exceptional and urgent circumstances will permission be granted by the Director General of Civil Aviation or the Chairperson of the Bahamas Maritime Authority for such flights or vessels to enter New Providence.”