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PM tightens restrictions on Abaco

Due to a slight increase in reported cases on the island of Abaco, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis said yesterday that he will change the island’s curfew to start at 8 p.m. and end 5 a.m. starting Sunday.

The current curfew on the island is 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. According to the emergency order, the current curfew does not apply to the Abaco cays.

Residents traveling from mainland Abaco to other islands will also be required to take a RT-PCR test, Minnis said.

“We have survived this entire COVID pandemic because of strict rules we introduced on each given island, and we try to minimize the spread to all the other islands,” Minnis said on the sidelines of an event.

“I understand that Abaco is experiencing a slight increase and that concerns us. The medical team has already mobilized and made all the necessary adjustments. Their recommendation is that at this particular point in time, Abaco’s curfew should be readjusted to 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. We intend to make that adjustment on Sunday. That would give them time to make the necessary adjustments.”

In a statement last night, the Ministry of Health said between January 8 and February 23, Abaco saw a gradual increase in cases. 

“Since February 23, there have been 48 positive COVID-19 cases,” the ministry said. 

According to the ministry, 23 cases were reported in Marsh Harbour and 25 were reported in Coopers Town. The positive cases were a mixture of RT-PCR tests, 18, and rapid antigen tests, 30.

The ministry noted that an analysis of the increase of cases revealed that “a few cases” were found at the Murphy Town Primary School in Central Abaco; four cases originated from a construction site, and six cases originated from the Marsh Harbour Clinic. 

 “Contact tracing activities are ongoing, and as guided by these activities, the relevant staff will be placed in quarantine or isolation as required,” the ministry said.

“Consequently, the Marsh Harbour Clinic has undergone deep cleaning and sanitization and the Marsh Harbour Clinic remains open for service.

“A team from the Surveillance Unit in New Providence has been dispatched to initiate contact tracing and to determine the level of exposure to the employees of the clinic and visiting clients.

“In the meantime, three nurses have been sent as support staff to the Marsh Harbour Clinic and two more nurses are expected to arrive soon. As it stands, there is a sufficient number of physicians on the island to manage the COVID-19 cases.”

In total, Abaco has recorded 246 COVID-19 cases.

Testing

 Due to the increase, which Minnis said is concerning to health officials, a change in testing protocol will also be made for those seeking to leave Abaco.

“All individuals leaving Abaco mainland to any other mainland [islands] of The Bahamas, would have to get a RT-PCR test done,” Minnis said.

“This will be done for about two weeks.

“We feel like with this type of strict protocol, we would be able to control Abaco and prevent it from spreading to other parts of The Bahamas.”

Minnis also touted the government’s handling of the pandemic, stating, “As you know, The Bahamas is recognized throughout the world for the excellent job we’ve been doing and essentially a COVID-free destination. Therefore, we do not want the Abacos and the experience that they’re having now to spread to the other Bahama islands.”

Minnis noted that the spread of the virus appears to be coming from the Marsh Harbor area.

“At this point in time, we notice it’s confined to Marsh Harbor and the northern part of Abaco,” he said.

“The central part is not affected. But, I want to assure the Bahamian populous that there’s not an outbreak in Abaco. We’ve taken strict precautions because of the increase. We do not want it to go any further.

“We’ve used this method in the past and it’s worked. We will use the method again. Now, individuals may be concerned about the curfew, but it’s about the welfare of the Bahamian populous.”

The AstraZeneca vaccine is still not in country as yet. However, Minnis said, “Be assured that once the vaccine is here the entire Bahamas will know that the vaccine has arrived and we will organize for police or defense force to escort the vaccine to its proper final location.

“We will arrange for 24-hour security by the defense force.”

He added, “We will be more aggressive in getting the vaccine here as quickly as possible. I would urge all Bahamians to accept the vaccine because then we would decrease the rate of infection as is demonstrated throughout the world. Those countries that are vaccinated, we would note that their infection rate is decreasing. The type of lockdowns and curfews that they’ve implemented is now decreasing. Therefore, we would not want to go back down that road. We want to maintain the reputation of a well-managed pandemic.”

Nationwide, there were 11 confirmed cases of the virus on Wednesday.

There was one case reported on New Providence, four on Grand Bahama and six on Abaco.

As of Wednesday, there were 8,507 cases of COVId-19 recorded in The Bahamas. The number of active cases dropped to 996 and the total number of recovered cases stood at 7,279.

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Kyle Walkine

Kyle started with The Nassau Guardian in June 2014 as a broadcast reporter. He began anchoring the newscast four months later. Kyle began writing national news and feature stories in 2016. He covers a wide range of national stories. He previously worked as a reporter at Jones Communications. Education: College of The Bahamas, Bachelor Media

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