Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Dr. Hubert Minnis, during an address in the House of Assembly on Wednesday morning, October 7th, 2020, announced a new set of restrictions and safety measures for the islands of New Providence and Abaco, as a result of the pace of their increasing cases of Covid-19.
“High numbers in New Providence,” said the PM, setting up his position in support of the new measures, “have placed a significant strain on the health system and healthcare workers… Hospitals are full. Medical teams have been pushed to their capacity.
“If there is further deterioration in the situation on New Providence,” he added, “we risk the collapse of the healthcare system. The current situation in New Providence and Abaco requires new restrictions to reduce infections and save lives”
“The new restrictions seek to balance the needs of the people to make a living, and the serious public health concerns of the moment. Nobody wants or likes complete lockdowns or full restrictions, so we seek to implement what is reasonable and necessary for a period of time – to reduce sickness and death. When the goal of cases being reduced have been achieved, the restrictive measures will be removed,” he communicated.
PM Minnis said that after a briefing from PAHO and meetings with the Ministry of Health, and to balance the health, economic and social needs of the country, the Bahamas Cabinet agreed to a variety of measures for both New Providence and Abaco. “The measures we are taking are multi-dimensional, and include enforcement of regulations, encouragement and ongoing public education. The greatest measure is still the individual’s responsibility…,” he emphasized, and continued, “The new measures are designed and targeted to reduce the spread of Covid-19 on both New Providence and Abaco.”
“The following provisions (Abaco and New Providence only) will take effect on Friday, October 9th, 2020 at 7pm:
– A full 3-Day 24 hour weekend curfew for NP and Abaco only, to end on Tuesday, October 13th at 5am.
– Continued weekend curfews beginning on Fridays at 7pm and ending on Monday mornings at 5am.
– During weekend curfews, only essential services permitted to operate.
– Sea and airports to continue operating.
– One hour religious services to continue on weekends from 7am to 1pm.
– Pharmacies, gas stations, construction sites, laundromats, allowed to operate during weekend curfew.
– National Food Task Force distribution to be tailored for weekdays.
– No social gatherings to be allowed whatsoever (strictly enforced to reduce the spread of Covid-19).
– Police to setup monitoring stations during curfew.
– A telephone Hotline has been set up for citizens to report on social gatherings at 702-9967-9.
– Religious services during the week, to continue according to guidelines.
– Funerals – Only ten people permitted at graveside, in addition to officiant. No repasts.
– Weddings – ten people only permitted, in addition to officiant. No receptions.
– Schools on New Providence and Abaco to proceed virtually – no in person schooling for students.
– Beaches and parks are again closed on NP and Abaco.
– Exercise permitted in one’s neighbourhood (Mon to Fri 5am to 7pm). Exercise on weekend in an individual’s yard only.
– Gyms are closed once again.
– Workplaces – seen as a major source of spread by health officials – All who can work from home should do so, said PM Minnis. Where possible, a shift system to be implemented to allow as few people as possible at the workplace.
– PM Minnis made a special appeal to businesses to adhere to safety and health guidelines.
– Public Officers, he said, were to work from home.
– Restaurants – only takeaway, curbside and deliveries permitted. No indoor or outdoor dining on New Providence and Abaco.
– All retail will be curbside, except for foodstores.
– Gas stations are not permitted to allow indoor services.
– Hotels allowed to have outdoor dining for guests.
– All fines for breaches of protocols to be doubled (with the exception of the mask-wearing fine) to encourage adherence to public measures.
– Businesses to be fined on first violation, and closed on second violation of orders – for 14 days.
– If a business or construction site has a 10% infection rate of its full compliment of staff, the business will be closed, and all staff members quarantined for 14 days.
– Bahamians and residents seeking to book at hotels on New Providence and Abaco will be required to have a negative RT/PCR test before entering such facilities.”
Health officials, said Prime Minister Minnis, have set targeted goals and timelines to measure the impact of the restrictive measures, and the likely success of slowing the transmission of Covid-19 in New Providence and Abaco – over the next 14 days.
The measures of success he said would include: Numbers of cases no longer increasing; Hospitalizations decreasing; a reduction in the need for ICU or intensive care, and a decrease in Covid-related deaths.
The success of these measures, said the PM, will inform health officials and the government whether more restrictive measures are needed or if measures can be relaxed.
The measures outlined, he added, has no effect on air travel, with no changes to the current travel regime, and the opening of the international tourism sector remains set for November 1st, 2020. These measures, he said, were also being taken, in order to reduce case numbers in preparation for the border opening of the tourism sector.