After a rush on grocery stores on New Providence and Grand Bahama yesterday ahead of a five-day complete lockdown tonight, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis announced that store hours have been extended to 10 p.m. through tomorrow.
Lines of eager shoppers went from building to building in many areas as residents sought to get their shopping in ahead of the lockdown.
“We feel that once we extend the supermarket (times) and remove essential services, police and defense force et cetera, out of the alphabetical system, that would immediately reduce the load of individuals visiting our supermarkets,” said Minnis at his West Bay Street office.
Tomorrow, a shift system will allow members of the Royal Bahamas Police Force (RBPF), the Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF) and healthcare professionals to shop between 6 a.m. and noon.
The 12 p.m. to 10 p.m. shift will be open to all those who work in essential services, including fire services, immigration, Water and Sewerage, prison and customs officers, NIB (National Insurance Board) and social workers, among others.
Individuals must wear masks in order to be granted entry at food stores.
“There are no shortages,” Minnis assured. “And we ask you to adhere to social or physical distancing. If you don’t, all the work that the government has done in protecting you can be lost overnight.”
Today and tomorrow, pharmacies will be allowed to open until 3 p.m.
A schedule was implemented on Monday in an attempt to limit the number of people at food stores amid the COVID-19 pandemic. However, stores have been inundated with shoppers.
Food stores on Grand Bahama experienced the same issue, with the young and elderly crowding the doors in hopes of getting inside just as stores opened.
The matter was discussed during a Cabinet meeting yesterday morning, which prompted the extension of the shopping hours, according to Minnis.
“This entire event that we’re experiencing is very fluid and therefore adjustments have to be made,” he said.
“I know that these are very difficult times, very painful times, and no one in The Bahamas has ever experienced anything like this. But, it’s my and the government’s responsibility to save lives and to save as [many] as possible.”
Minnis said due to the rush at food stores on New Providence, baked goods and water stocks are expected to be compromised.
As a result, he said bakeries and water depots will be allowed to open to replenish stocks during the shutdown period, which will end on Tuesday at 5 a.m.
There have been 36 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in The Bahamas – 30 on New Providence, five on Grand Bahama and one on Bimini.
Six people have died from the virus and five patients have recovered.