Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis announced yesterday that there will be a five-day lockdown of the country beginning Wednesday at 9 p.m. to contain the spread of COVID-19, noting that a complete shutdown will occur every weekend for the month of April.
The five-day lockdown will end on Tuesday, April 14 at 5 a.m.
Minnis made the revelation before tabling a resolution extending the state of emergency until April 30.
The Bahamas has seen a surge in COVID-19 cases in the last two weeks. So far, there have been 33 cases and 5 deaths.
The prime minister, who spoke in the House of Assembly, warned that The Bahamas does not have the resources of larger countries and must, therefore, focus its efforts on prevention.
He said the increased measures are necessary to allow health officials time to identify “super-spreaders” of COVID-19.
“A super-spreader has the potential to infect thousands of individuals, and it’s essential that we lockdown, so that we search aggressively for the super-spreaders,” he said.
“So, yes, we may experience five days of pain, but a lifetime of resolution.”
Minnis noted that during these shutdowns, people are not allowed to leave their homes, unless they are going out to buy an essential item or if they have been designated as an essential worker.
Additionally, he said people can only exercise in their own yards or in their neighborhoods.
Minnis said it is critical to curve the spread of this virus, given the devastating impact it has had on society.
“This pandemic has killed more than 70,000 people around the world,” he said.
“It has killed young and old. Rich and poor. No one is exempt. No one has been found to be immune from this deadly virus.
“Sadly, Bahamians have also died.
“As prime minister and as a medical doctor, it is my duty to do what is necessary to protect our people. My mind is clear.
“I am focused on what must be done.
“The best medicine to stop this virus is physical distancing. We must stay apart as much as possible to prevent the spread of this coronavirus and more deaths.”
Minnis said The Bahamas is learning from what has happened in other countries.
“Compliance will help to determine how many deaths there are,” he said.
“We all have it in our hands to save lives.
“If we follow the rules and listen, if we stay at home, fewer people will die and will get sick.
“If we are slack, if we do not listen, if some sneak out and break the rules, more people may die.
“The people who die from some being slack, could be friends, neighbors and family.
“This deadly outbreak is not just happening on TV.
“It is not just happening around the world. The virus is spreading in The Bahamas.”
The first complete national lockdown took place over the weekend. Minnis noted that many criticized the short notice given to the public prior to that shutdown, but said health care workers needed it to prevent the virus from spreading as it has in other cities.
“They advised that they needed that time to search and seek out the super-spreaders,” he said.
“And a delay to Wednesday, we might find ourselves in a similar situation as Florida and New York. We had to make decisions quickly.”
Minnis said one of the most unfortunate results of the orders has been the postponement of several funerals over the weekend.
“I know this is extremely painful, but I want to assure the families and the country that this difficult decision was meant to save lives,” he said.
However, he stressed that the stringent measures are necessary.
“We are losing loved ones,” he said.
“Some are experiencing ill health and some are critically ill. Families and friends are confronting the deaths of loved ones. We are feeling the loss of those who have contributed so much to our society for so many years.”
The prime minister also encouraged people to wear non-medical masks in public to protect against the transmission of COVID-19.
“I want to stress, however, that those who are not frontline medical personnel should refrain from purchasing or wearing health masks,” he said.
“These masks are reserved for our health workers on the frontline.
“I would, at this moment, urge every retail store, or persons, who have any stocks or supplies of any medically approved surgical or face masks for sale, to contact the Ministry of Health immediately, in order to sell the same to public health, as the sale of any medical masks to the general public will, at some time, be prohibited.”
He noted that the government has “enabled the production of cotton masks on New Providence” to ensure that there is a supply of masks available for the public.
“These masks will be washable and reusable by the ordinary resident,” he said.
“To encourage and enable the large-scale production of cotton masks in the Family Islands, the Small Business Development Centre has been directed to provide funding to tailors and seamstresses, so that sufficient masks are also available throughout the Family Islands.
“Let me note that the production of masks presents an economic opportunity for business-people and entrepreneurs.
“Going forward, The Bahamas will have to begin to manufacture a number of items for domestic needs. This will provide economic opportunities and jobs for Bahamians.”
Minnis said as grave and as painful as this crisis is, “we must and will survive”.
“We must dedicate our fight to building a new country to those whose lives will be lost and to those who helped to protect us and save our lives,” he said.