Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis declared yesterday The Bahamas appears to be nearing the end of the second wave of COVID-19 infections, even as 435 new cases were confirmed in the country in the last week. This does not include the 151 reported hours after Minnis spoke.
However, as the prime minister announced the relaxation of a number of restrictions that had been implemented in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19, he warned that the pandemic is not over.
“Thankfully, based on the data at hand, we appear to be nearing the end of our second wave of the pandemic,” said Minnis during debate on a resolution that extends his emergency powers to October 31.
However, it is unclear which data the prime minister based that analysis on.
On July 24, when Minnis ordered weekend lockdowns across The Bahamas as health officials warned the country was in the second wave of COVID infections, 189 cases had been confirmed in the previous week.
When Minnis announced an immediate one-week lockdown of New Providence on August 17, the country had recorded 384 cases in the previous week. Minnis quickly reversed that lockdown decision amid widespread public criticism.
He said restrictions were being lifted to allow people to prepare for a weather system. The following week, Minnis announced the lifting of a number restrictions, noting that they were no longer necessary, even as cases continued to rise.
Minnis said yesterday that lockdowns may still be necessary should cases rise exponentially.
“My government does not like lockdowns,” he said.
“We understand they are hard on family life; they’re hard on businesses, and individuals’ finances; they’re hard on people’s mental health.
“When virus cases increase, we try first to impose other restrictive measures.
“But, if cases rise exponentially and virus spread is out of control, we may have no choice but to order a lockdown to save lives, as have most governments around the world, including countries that have been acknowledged to have had a generally good response to the pandemic.”
Minnis said parts of islands can be locked down if necessary.
“When I say we can do selective…lockdowns, I live in the west, so let’s say for example, and this is just an example…but if an infection let’s say was in the Gambier area, we can lock that area off and resolve that issue,” he said.
“In Adelaide, we can do the same thing. In Mount Pleasant, we can do the same thing. And there are different sections throughout New Providence, and that’s what I mean when I speak about selective and not broad-based [lockdowns].”
The House of Assembly passed the resolution last night to extend the state of emergency, which was set to expire on September 30.
Governor General C. A. Smith declared a state of emergency on March 18, three days after The Bahamas confirmed its first COVID-19 case.
A “procedural oversight” in the Office of the Attorney General led to the inadvertent expiration of the first state of emergency on June 29, leading to the governor general’s declaration of a new state of emergency on the same day.
Had that error not occurred, the six month period permitted by the constitution for a state of emergency would have expired this month.
“One cannot say that we do not need certain emergency orders and at the same time say that the virus remains very serious. Saying both of these at the same time is wholly contradictory and makes no sense,” the prime minister said yesterday.
Guard against complacency
He said that while the second wave was nearing its end, a third wave of COVID-19 is likely in The Bahamas.
“As I have said, the pandemic is far from over,” he said.
“In fact, it is likely there will be a third wave in The Bahamas, as there has been and will be in other countries.
“We know this from the pattern of the spread of the virus. It is very contagious. As people travel more outside of their homes, congregate and let their guards down when one wave ends, the virus comes back.
“So, we must guard against complacency. We must not let our guards down. As a people, we must do all we can to lessen the impact of a third wave.
“Key to this is that each of us and all of us must be even more committed to using the measures we used to slow the first and second waves.
“The more we consistently comply with these recommendations, the better we may control a third wave.
“By limiting the number of people infected in the third wave, we lessen the need to impose the most restrictive measures such as lockdowns.
“Fighting COVID-19 is a national effort. We have to work together. Each and every Bahamian and resident is key to our success. It only takes one infected person going to a gathering and not following the guidelines to cause hundreds of infections.
“Let history remember us as one of the disciplined nations in this pandemic. Let us be remembered as a people who worked together toward the common goal of keeping our communities as COVID-free as possible.”