The emergency orders were amended yesterday to allow, among other things, churches on New Providence to hold services.
The move came one day after several church leaders called on Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis, the competent authority, to allow churches to operate.
“We have concluded that the government should revert to its previous decisions that communal worship, as well as funerals and weddings, should be allowed according to the size of the church’s edifice and once social distancing and other relevant protocols can be put in place,” a letter by 20 church leaders read.
“We will continue to encourage our most vulnerable members and/or visitors to take additional precautions or to worship virtually or privately.
“Again, we stress that we are not prepared to go much further with the current secular, short-sighted decisions.”
The latest order reads, “A worship service may be conducted in accordance with the protocols established by the Bahamas Christian Council (BCC) approved by the Ministry of Health.”
It removes the provision that, “…in New Providence, a worship service shall only be conducted via livestream between the hours of 7:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. from their place of instruction provided that no more than 10 persons shall be permitted to participate in such service”.
Guidelines previously announced by the BCC, when The Bahamas attempted its first reopening in June, included pre-arranged seating in churches, hand sanitizer stations and the mandatory wearing of masks. The BCC also strongly discouraged those at high risk for severe COVID-19 symptoms from attending services, and urged them to stay at home.
Private medical facilities and dental practices
The new order also relaxes previous restrictions on private medical facilities and dental practices.
Previously, private medical facilities could only open for the provision of emergency medical care and Monday through Friday between 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. for immunization; neonatal and prenatal care; dialysis; chemotherapy and other cancer treatments; and telemedicine.
Under the new order, private medical facilities may operate daily between 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. and for emergency care only between the hours of 10 p.m. to 5 a.m.
Dental practices were previously only allowed to operate to provide emergency care between 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Under the new order, dental practices are allowed to operate daily between 5 a.m. to 10 p.m.