Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis announced yesterday that Bimini will be placed under a two-week lockdown after two residents tested positive for the novel coronavirus.
In a surprise live address, Minnis said the lockdown is an “absolutely necessary” measure to save lives on the tiny island.
“A lockdown like this is not something that would have been preferred,” he said.
“But it is absolutely necessary because things will get much worse on Bimini if we don’t take this strong measure immediately.”
Minnis said the two new infections brought the total number of cases on the island to 13.
That makes Bimini the island with the second most cases in The Bahamas, behind New Providence, Minnis noted.
He added, “I ask and I urge all Biminites to initiate all disciplinary measures possible and practice social distancing even before the lockdown commences.
“I know that a measure like this even further disrupts daily life and economic activity, but we are, now, in an emergency situation.
“We must work now to stop the spread of the virus on Bimini because it gets even more out of control if we are not to act quickly and efficiently. Time is of the essence.”
The lockdown on Bimini will start at 9 a.m. on Monday, May 18 and will end at midnight on May 30.
Minnis said the date will be extended to a total of 14 days when Parliament reconvenes on May 27.
Bimini will not be locked down this weekend, according to Attorney General Carl Bethel.
“The number of confirmed cases is expected to increase if much of the population continues to fail to practice recommendations for physical distancing, wearing protective face coverings and frequent and thorough hand washing,” Minnis said.
So far, 102 residents have been swabbed for the virus on the island, according to the prime minister.
Minnis said the lockdown was expected to start “even sooner”, however, it was delayed as a result of bad weather.
“I note that similar lockdown periods were applied in other countries to help to control the spread of COVID-19,” he said.
“This measure is absolutely necessary in order to save and to protect the lives of the residents of Bimini.
“Epidemiological management of the COVID-19 outbreak in Bimini requires strict adherence to shelter in place to prevent and to control the spread, which will worsen if preventative measures are not taken quickly and adhered to.”
Bimini, which has a population of about 2,000, has been identified as a COVID-19 hotspot.
Bimini recorded its first case of the virus on April 1 when Kim Johnson-Rolle, a resident, died as a result of COVID-19.
On April 12, officials said a woman on Cat Cay, a small island near Bimini, had the virus. Ten days later, officials said a man and woman on Bimini contracted the virus. Three days later, five people tested positive for COVID-19 on Bimini.
On May 5, officials said three more people on Bimini contracted the virus. Finally, the two latest cases were confirmed on Bimini yesterday.
The concern about the island is also due to its size. Bimini is only seven and a half miles long and only half a mile wide.
For comparison, New Providence is 21 miles long and seven miles wide.
Minnis asked Bimini residents to cooperate with officials in preparation for the lockdown.
He said the government will do all it can to assist those in need of help during the two-week period.
“Officials from the central government are collaborating with the island administrator for food and water distribution and other considerations unique to Bimini,” he said.
“The National Food Committee and the Department of Social Services are making arrangements to ensure that the food needs will be met before and during the lockdown.
“I assure the residents of Bimini that there will be sufficient food and medicine for everyone on that island. Additional support, security and enforcement of the lockdown will be provided by the Royal Bahamas Police Force.
“Various measures are being taken to ensure the safety of essential workers on the island, including the use of PPEs (personal protective equipment). Health officials will respond to any health-related matters about this lockdown.”
Last month, West Grand Bahama and Bimini MP Pakesia Parker-Edgecombe requested the lockdown to prevent the spread of COVID-19 on the small island.
Biminites have long expressed concern that the island cannot handle a surge in COVID-19 cases.