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Raft of new emergency measures after COVID spike

Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis on Friday imposed a series of new restrictions — including a 7 p.m. national curfew, discontinuation of domestic travel and indefinite weekend lockdowns — as a result of the resurgence of COVID-19 in The Bahamas.

The announcement came one day after The Bahamas reported a record-breaking 55 new cases.

“After much consideration, we have determined a way forward that takes into account the grave health crisis and the need to provide economic survival,” the prime minister said at a Ministry of Health press conference.

“Public health officials are closely monitoring indicators to determine whether more or less stringent measures will be required going forward.

“The major indicators include the increase in the number of cases, the increase in the number of hospitalizations and the availability of ICU beds.”

A new curfew from 7 p.m. to 5 a.m. will go into effect today.

Business activity must be completed by 6 p.m., according to Minnis.

Indoor and outdoor dining at all restaurants is prohibited. Take away, curbside and delivery services are still permitted.

All congregate activities — including in-person religious services, sporting events, group exercise and all social gatherings — is prohibited.

Funerals are permitted at the graveside only with no more than five people including an officiant.

Weddings are also permitted with no more than five people including the officiant.

Gyms are not allowed to operate.

“Regarding salons, barbershops and spas, one client per service provider will be allowed in the building at a time,” the prime minister said.

Inter-island travel is discontinued as of tomorrow at 7 p.m.

Before that time, all travelers who are returning to the Family Islands from New Providence and other islands with COVID-19 will be required to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival.

The decision to prohibit domestic travel came two days after Minnis tabled new emergency orders allowing commercial flights and vessels from all countries to enter The Bahamas amid the pandemic. Travelers are required to provide a negative RT-PCR COVID-19 test and quarantine at a government facility on arrival.

This was a reversal to a policy which was announced by the prime minister on July 19, banning commercial flights and vessels from all countries excluding Canada, the United Kingdom and the European Union.

When asked by The Nassau Guardian why domestic travel was banned but international flights permitted, Minnis said there are “very strict regulations” for travelers coming from abroad.

“You’re talking about jets, private jets, yachts, etc.,” he said.

“They are very closely monitored. They must have COVID-19 tests.

“With respect to the Family Islands, once an individual moves from one Family Island, they can move to three, four different Family Islands quite easily and we might lose them through the system in terms of monitoring.”

When pressed on why individuals traveling on private planes and vessels do not to quarantine at a government facility, Minnis said, “There will be no discrimination. However, you would find that many individuals who may have come into our country on private [planes and vessels] may have adequate facility that meet government standards.

“But, they are still monitored by Hubbcat and ensured that they adhere to our regulations.”

Weekend lockdowns

Minnis also announced a weekend lockdown that went into effect on 10 p.m. on Friday.

That lockdown applied to all islands in The Bahamas excluding Grand Bahama, which is already on a two-week lockdown.

“During a lockdown, unless you are an identified essential worker, you may not leave your place of residence for any purpose other than to seek urgent medical care or to purchase food or medicine,” Minnis said.

Grocery stores, pharmacies and gas stations are permitted to open to the public from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Construction was also permitted to continue, including reconstruction on the island of Abaco and its cays.

The transportation of inter-island freight was allowed continue. However, individuals who had to collect freight were required to seek approval from the Royal Bahamas Police Force hotlines on their respective islands.

Funerals that were planned during this time were allowed, but at the graveside only and limited to five people, including an officiant.

Weddings that were also planned were also permitted with a maximum number of five people, including an officiant.

Exercise was allowed “within your immediate property” until 5 p.m.

“We anticipate more weekend lockdowns going forward until the health indicators suggest that it is safe to do otherwise,” he said.

Asked why lockdowns were in place on COVID-free islands, the prime minister replied, “That is to protect them. What you will find that with time, we will ease those restrictions on those given Family Islands.

“The islands that you would be talking about in particular are those that don’t have at this particular time. That’s Inagua, Mayaguana, Acklins, Crooked Island. San Salvador is not recorded and Long Island.

“We will continue to monitor those islands and release restrictions with time.

“At the same time, we would encourage those individuals to discourage individuals from visiting their islands and if anyone visits their island, they should essentially monitor them and force them into some sort of quarantine and not necessarily co-mingle closely with those individuals for at least 14 days.”

Health officials recorded an additional 16 cases yesterday, bringing to 342 the total number of cases confirmed in The Bahamas. Two hundred and thirty eight of those cases are active.

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