While asking that individuals over age 75 remain at home, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis announced last night that the government is seeking to extend the 24-hour curfew in The Bahamas until April 8, implement a grocery shopping schedule and deploy more police officers to the streets in an effort to contain the spread of COVID-19.
This announcement came as the number of confirmed cases of the virus increased by three, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in The Bahamas to 14.
“I wish to announce that tomorrow the House of Assembly will meet to debate a resolution to approve the continuance of the Emergency Powers (COVID-19) Regulations made on the 17th of March and the Emergency Powers (COVID-19) orders made on the 23rd of March until the 8th of April, 2020,” Minnis said during a press conference at the Office of the Prime Minister.
“The resolution will ask for approval for the continuance of a state of emergency until the 8th of April, 2020, inclusive of the emergency powers and authority in the two orders. The resolution extends the emergency proclamation for an additional eight days.
“We must avoid speculation and rely on health officials to continue to advise where the country is in the fight against COVID-19.”
He added, “I want this curfew to end as soon as possible. I want these restrictions over as soon as possible, but for now, we have to stop the spread of this virus.”
Two weeks ago, Minnis imposed a national curfew — 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. — and ordered the closure of non-essential businesses.
Last week, he extended the curfew to 24-hours.
Last night, the prime minister said, “The Royal Bahamas Police Force (RBPF) will increase efforts to enforce the curfew regulations. There are still too many vehicles on our roads.”
He asked individuals over 75 to not leave their homes.
“Those between the ages of 65 and 74 should work from within their homes and the purpose is not to isolate our senior citizens by asking them to stay at home,” Minnis said.
“The purpose is to save lives. Our elderly represent wisdom. We must save and protect the wise in our society.
“Family members should stay in regular contact with older relatives; and please make sure they have their regular medications, groceries and supplies so they don’t have to leave their homes.”
He said each household should have a designated shopper.
In the days following the first confirmed case of the virus locally, Bahamian citizens and residents swarmed grocery stores with lines sometimes lasting more than an hour.
The prime minister and grocery store owners have assured there is a sufficient supply of food in the country, thus making panic shopping unnecessary.
Last night, Minnis said, “The government will introduce a food shopping schedule. Shopping days and times will be designated based on the first letter of a person’s last name. More details will be released further this week.
“This measure is intended to reduce the number of people on the road and to reduce the number of people at grocery stores at any one time. This is to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
“Again, let me stress, our food stocks are healthy and there [is] no shortage of food supply. There is no need for panic buying.”
He encouraged grocery stores to activate online shopping platforms in order “to reduce the number of people having to come into their stores for food and supplies and the length of time customers have to spend in their respective stores”.
Minnis ordered the closure of all public parks effective tomorrow at 9 a.m.
He also amended the operating hours for some businesses exempted from the curfew.
“I wish to remind you of a number of current and additional measures,” the prime minister said.
“Pharmacies will be allowed to operate from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Banks will be allowed to operate from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Landscaping and property maintenance businesses and janitorial service businesses will be allowed to operate on Saturday and Sunday only.
“Pool maintenance businesses will be allowed to operate on Friday and Saturday only. All street or roadside vendors will be prohibited from operating. I repeat: all street and roadside vendors must and will be removed by the police. Our streets will be cleared.
“This does not include newspaper vendors, who should remain at one location.”
He reiterated that construction companies — as well as the hardware companies that service them — involved in Hurricane Dorian reconstruction efforts on Abaco and Grand Bahama are exempted from the curfew.
Minnis said liquor stores are still not permitted to open during this time.