Minister of Health Dr. Michael Darville announced yesterday the government will relax its mask mandate effective October 1.
The mask mandate will be lifted for most sectors in The Bahamas except for schools, healthcare facilities and elderly facilities, he said.
“In the few weeks ahead, we will make further determination as we begin to remove them all,” Darville told The Nassau Guardian.
Free National Movement Chairman Dr. Duane Sands said he has no issue with the incremental relaxation of the mask mandate.
He said the announcement will be “hugely welcomed”.
“I think the minister of health and wellness has been attempting to manage the controlled rollback of the COVID restrictions,” Sands said.
“He’s done this facing, I’m sure, a tremendous amount of opposition from people wanting to damn the torpedoes.
“Given the reality and while we can see the light at the end of the tunnel, COVID is not yet gone. The pandemic is not yet over.”
Sands said while the end may be in sight, it is “too early” to declare victory over the pandemic.
Darville’s announcement came days after he indicated that COVID-19 testing for unvaccinated people entering The Bahamas will soon be lifted.
Testing and the mask mandate are the last major COVID-related restrictions still in effect in The Bahamas.
They were implemented at the onset of the pandemic in 2020, in an attempt to curb the spread of the virus. Other restrictions like the nightly curfew, weekend lockdowns and non-essential business closures have since been lifted.
The Bahamas has confirmed more than 37,200 COVID-19 cases and over 800 deaths since March 2020.
Fewer than 2,000 new cases were recorded since June 21.
This represents a significant decrease when compared to the more than 8,000 cases recorded between late December 2021 and January 2022.
Darville has said COVID-19 will “always be with us” and Bahamians must exercise responsibility for their health and the health of others.
“In The Bahamas, we are seeing the number of positive COVID cases declining, which is good news for us,” he said on Monday.
“Of major concern remains our hospitals and we are working diligently to find short and medium-term solutions to address the overflow and staff shortages, particularly the emergency rooms.”
In an interview with “60 Minutes”, which aired on Sunday, United States President Joe Biden declared that the COVID-19 pandemic is over.
He indicated that the US still has a problem with the virus.
“We’re still doing a lot of work on it … but the pandemic is over,” Biden said.
Darville said he saw Biden’s comments but noted The Bahamas is “not quite there yet”.