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PM eases restrictions

Most businesses as well as beaches still closed

A day after reversing his widely unpopular decision to impose a seven-day lockdown on New Providence with no notice, the competent authority, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis, yesterday imposed a daily curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. for all islands of The Bahamas with a few exceptions.

“This is simply preserving the greater safety measures that are usually in the lockdown orders while allowing people to stock up to prepare for the potential tropical storm or hurricane,” Attorney General Carl Bethel told The Nassau Guardian last night.

“This allows people who need to pay their insurance premiums to be able to do so if they can’t do so remotely while giving people the maximum amount of time to go to grocery stores, pharmacies, to get gas, water, all the necessities of life; the times to do so have been expanded significantly.” 

More limited shopping hours are widely believed to have contributed to significant crowds at grocery stores across New Providence.

The latest emergency order does not apply to Mayaguana, Inagua, Chub Cay, Crooked Island, Acklins, Long Cay, Long Island, Rum Cay and Ragged Island, which have resumed normal commercial business.

On New Providence, Grand Bahama and other islands that fall under the new order, all businesses and agencies except essential services and other limited exceptions are to remain closed. 

Businesses may continue their operations remotely. Public servants, unless specifically designated as essential workers, are required to work remotely.

Grocery stores, water depots and water production companies, pharmacies, gas stations and hardware stores are permitted to open to the general public between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m.

The National Food Distribution Task Force shall be permitted to carry out the national food distribution program. Non-governmental organizations or religious organizations shall also be permitted to distribute food.

Under the order, a person shall, where a tropical storm watch or warning has been declared, be permitted to make the necessary hurricane preparations to secure himself and his property, including any building, vehicle, boat, crop or animal.

A person is permitted to leave home to obtain water from a public pump between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m.

A person is permitted to exercise in his immediate neighborhood between 5 a.m. and 8 a.m.

A manufacturer may continue the production of goods to be delivered to a food store or mail boat for inter-island trade on Mondays through Fridays between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. provided that the manufacturer does not open to the general public.

A wholesale grocer or baker is permitted to operate for the purpose of wholesale delivery to goods distribution centers, the Department of Corrections, retail grocers or to mail boats for Family Island supply.

A commercial bank or credit union may open Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.

A laundromat is permitted to operate between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m., subject to protocols approved by the Ministry of Health.

General insurers, brokers and agents are permitted to open daily between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.

A commercial fishing business is permitted to operate to deliver its catch to a processing plant.

A restaurant on Abaco is permitted to operate utilizing takeaway and curbside only from Monday through Friday between 6 a.m. and 7 p.m.

Other agencies that may operate are: ports of entry, container ports, freight forwarders and private terminals for the conduct, where applicable, of basic port maintenance services (inclusive of garbage removal), domestic trade, imports and exports of containerized freight and the import, treatment, bunkering and export of oil products.

Additional agencies that may operate are: any public or privately owned terminal and ancillary or support services for the receipt of imported wholesale petroleum products for domestic consumption, for the purpose of the storage and onward delivery of the same to any public or private entity for utility or retail distribution throughout The Bahamas over land or by barges.

A business engaged in inter-island transportation of freight may also operate.

Hotels may operate but guests may not leave the premises except as permitted by the new order; indoor dining, casinos, discos, gyms, spas and salon services are prohibited.

A counsel and attorney shall be permitted to operate when discharging instructions in existing criminal or urgent civil matters or taking instructions in new criminal or urgent civil matters where this cannot be done by audio-visual means. 

Construction activity is permitted Mondays to Fridays between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m., and Saturdays between 7 a.m. and 1 p.m.

A funeral that was prearranged to be held up to next Tuesday may be held provided that the funeral service is conducted at the graveside and is limited to five people exclusive of the officiant and mortuary workers.

No person shall host or attend a wedding.

Churches shall be permitted to operate on weekends via livestream between 7 a.m. and 1 p.m. provided that no more than 10 people are at the churches.

Travel

Inter-island travel remains banned except in cases of emergencies, for the transport of essential goods or services or where a person prior to traveling undergoes COVID-19 testing and upon arrival on another island submits to mandatory quarantine at a government-identified facility or any other appropriate facility as determined by the Ministry of Health for 14 days. 

Residents of Mayaguana, Inagua, Crooked Island, Acklins and Long Cay may travel within those islands without meeting testing requirements.

A citizen or legal resident of The Bahamas who has obtained a health visa issued by the government shall be permitted to enter The Bahamas.

An applicant for a health visa must undergo an RT-PCR COVID-19 molecular diagnostic test. Upon arrival, that person must submit to mandatory 14-day quarantine at a government facility or any other appropriate facility as determined by the Ministry of Health.

Visitors shall be permitted to enter The Bahamas with a heath visa and must submit to a mandatory quarantine in a government-identified facility or any other appropriate facility for 14 days. Visitors must undergo testing at the end of the quarantine.

Balance

The attorney general said the government is seeking to strike an acceptable balance with the new emergency order.

“We are still in the situation, as everyone knows, where we have to balance between hurricane preparation and COVID-19 safety at a time when we are combatting widespread community transmission,” Bethel said.

“There are two things that we have to try and balance. One is safety from natural disaster and safety from a medical disaster that is still wreaking havoc throughout our communities, particular on New Providence right now. This is an attempt to properly balance these two factors in the best interest of every Bahamian and resident.”

Forecasters are watching a weather system that was yesterday east of the Lesser Antilles. They said it had a 90 percent chance of forming into a tropical depression over the next several days.

“Once the hurricane threat passes, we then have to look and evaluate where we are with the medical threat that still exists,” Bethel said.

The Bahamas yesterday recorded an additional 107 COVID-19 cases. This brings to 1,531 the total cases confirmed. There have been 22 total deaths and 61 people are hospitalized, according to health officials.

JUMP HEADLINE:

Grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations may continue operating from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.

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Candia Dames

Candia Dames is the executive editor of The Nassau Guardian.

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