As the country begins to enter the final phase of the government’s planned reopening, and a little over one week ahead of the borders reopening, Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr. Delon Brennen said yesterday that the Ministry of Health is concerned about whether Bahamians can adhere to public health measures in the face of increased risk.
“I think what we’ve seen so far is a reflection of, sort of, society wanting to be let out, getting out of lockdown, getting out of curfews – and that reflection, unfortunately, at times, has been where people have ignored public health measures,” Brennen said.
“They have gathered in small places with lots of people. People aren’t wearing masks, aren’t using proper hand washing [techniques], obviously ignoring the social distance.”
The country has been in a state of emergency, which saw the implementation of curfews and lockdowns, among other social restriction measures, since mid-March, in an attempt to contain the spread of COVID-19.
Within the past few weeks, those restrictions have slowly begun to be relaxed, with Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis announcing in the House of Assembly yesterday that the country is beginning to enter the fifth and final phase of reopening.
Phase five is set to remove restrictions on movement, according to the government’s previously released “Measured Plan for Re-Opening Economy” chart, and entails the opening of the country’s borders, which is currently set to take place on July 1.
While officials have noted that some individuals and groups have not adhered to social distancing protocols, Brennen said the Ministry of Health has not been too concerned about it “now, because we don’t really have a significant number of community-transmitted cases”.
But he said, “Our concern is, are we going to be prepared for when we allow others to come into the country.
“So, when tourists really start coming in and other Bahamian residents who have been out of the country start coming back from places where there is large amounts of community transmission, I think that’s really what has us concerned. Is the populace prepared to have those measures in place when there is a bigger threat that is possible?”
With some parts of the United States experiencing a spike in COVID-19 cases recently, some Bahamians have expressed concern about the planned reopening of the borders next week.
However, the government has announced that all individuals, including tourists, traveling into the country will be required to have tested negative for the virus.
An exception to the rule will be for Bahamians going on short trips out of country, but those individuals may be required to quarantine upon return home, based on the advice of the Ministry of Health.
Brennen said the ministry is working with agencies related to travel to ensure the country is as prepared as possible closer to the date, and stressed the need for everyone to adhere to health protocols.