Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis announced on Monday night a more strict and aggressive lockdown for New Providence as cases of COVID-19 on the island continue to skyrocket.
In a national address, Minnis said a new seven day lockdown, which took effect immediately, will be one of “sacrifice and hardship” but will allow health officials to evaluate and monitor the spread of COVID-19 on the island.
The announcement came as the island was coming to the end of a two week lockdown, which allowed essential businesses like food stores, pharmacies and gas stations to operate.
“The data on New Providence and the advice of health officials is extremely clear,” Minnis said.
“More restrictive measures are absolutely necessary in order to bring the virus under control on New Providence. Health indicators on New Providence show a very large number of new cases, an increase in hospitalizations and unfortunately an increase in deaths.
“If further restrictive measures are not taken to control and to slow the spread of COVID-19 on New Providence at this time, it will take a very long time to bring the virus under control.”
There are a total of 731 cases of the virus on the island, 649 of which were recorded since July 8, the start of the second wave.
Minnis said public healthcare, all hospitals and, for emergencies, private medical facilities are permitted to operate.
Public offices are closed except for essential staff. Public officers are to work remotely, except those who have expressly been identified in the orders as essential workers or identified by the permanent secretaries of their respective ministries.
Gas stations, food stores and private pharmacies are not permitted to operate for the next seven days.
Only a limited number of essential services are permitted to operate.
Those services include: the Public Hospitals Authority and its agencies; the Royal Bahamas Police Force; the Royal Bahamas Defence Force; the Bahamas Customs Department; the Department of Immigration; the Department of Correctional Services; the Department of Environmental Health Services; waste disposal and sanitation services; the Bahamas Civil Aviation Department; utility corporations for emergency and critical services only; and the National Food Distribution Task Force.
“The National Food Distribution Task Force will continue our food distribution program on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, as previously scheduled,” the prime minister said.
“Please contact your respective zone leaders if you have questions during this period. The Royal Bahamas Police Force will have lists by zones of all registrants of the program and will be checking vehicles to ensure that only one representative per household goes to the specific distribution center.
“I thank the food wholesalers and retailers who have given the government tremendous discounts for the food program.”
Hotels are permitted to operate with essential staff. However, the names of the employees will have to be submitted to police.
Essential media personnel may operate. However, they will be required to contact 311 when they are required to be on the streets of New Providence.
Subsistence and commercial fishing from New Providence is discontinued during this period.
Construction is permitted during the lockdown.
Financial institutions, which are required to carry out urgent transactions from within the institution, can contact 311 for permission to travel to and from the office.
International shipping, freight forwarders and domestic freight are permitted to continue. However, goods and supplies are to be stored during this period.
If approval is needed in an emergency for businesses to collect such items, businesses must contact 311 for permission.
All other businesses and commercial activities will be closed and are required to work remotely.
“The Royal Bahamas Police Force will check all vehicles to determine where persons are headed and to confirm that these individuals contacted the Royal Bahamas Police Force emergency contact number for approval to be on the streets,” Minnis said.
“This includes all government red plates. Those who do not comply will be fined according to the emergency powers order. Everyone who wishes to move in the case of an emergency must contact the Royal Bahamas Police Force at 311.”
Graveside funerals, which were previously planned and scheduled during this period, are permitted.
Weddings are not permitted.
Churches may continue to live stream from their premises on Saturday and Sunday with a maximum of 10 people present at the sanctuary.
Individuals are permitted to exercise in their immediate neighborhoods between 5 a.m. and 8 a.m. daily.
They are also allowed to exercise in their yards, if applicable, at any point during the day.
Diplomatic missions are permitted to open.
Members of the public, who are required to utilize their services, for example nationals of the respective countries needing services and students seeking visas, will be required to contact 311 before travelling to and from a diplomatic office.
Operation Bahamas Turks and Caicos is permitted to carry on its service.
There will be no international flights or vessels permitted to enter New Providence.
“Only in exceptional and urgent circumstances will permission be granted by the director general of [The Bahamas] Civil Aviation [Authority] or the chairperson of the Bahamas Maritime Authority for such flights or vessels to enter New Providence,” Minnis said.
International flights and vessels will be able to depart from New Providence.
Minnis said there will be “a further tightening” of the entry requirement for COVID-19 negative test results.
Test results can now be no older than five days old instead of the previously mentioned 10 days.
There will be no travel domestically between New Providence and the other islands of The Bahamas except for freight and for emergencies.
Minnis said health officials will assess data at the end of the lockdown and determine whether a lockdown is necessary.
“I will report to you again on the impact of the lockdown as soon as possible,” he said.
There are 1,329 cases of COVID-19 in The Bahamas.
More than 1,200 of those were reported since July 1 when the borders reopened.
The government extended a state of emergency, which was declared in March in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, right before the reopening of the borders.
The move came as The Bahamas reported no new cases for several weeks. It was criticized by some who said the state of emergency and the emergency powers orders were unnecessary as the curve had been flattened.
Minnis responded to those critics last night.
“If the government did not have the emergency powers there would be mass death in The Bahamas beyond the imagination of most,” he said.
“Those who tell you the emergency powers are not necessary are unserious and dead wrong. The government uses the emergency powers to enforce provisions that save lives.”