Restrictions relaxed

A weekday 24-hour curfew, which has been in place since March, will be lifted on Tuesday and will be replaced with a reduced curfew from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. for all islands of The Bahamas, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis announced in the House of Assembly yesterday.

Declaring that The Bahamas is flattening the COVID-19 curve but the government must be cautious in how it reopens the economy, Minnis also announced that weekend lockdowns will continue for all islands from Fridays at 9 p.m. to Mondays at 5 a.m.

During these lockdowns, exercise will be permitted from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. in one’s immediate neighborhood, instead of just during the early morning hours.

Exercise not restricted to one’s neighborhood may take place generally outside of curfew hours of 9 p.m. to 5 a.m., Mondays to Fridays.

The prime minister also announced that weekend lockdown rules will apply to the upcoming Whit Monday and Labour Day holidays (next Monday and Friday).

However, on the holidays, grocery stores will be allowed to open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m., and food takeaways, drive-throughs and restaurants offering curbside and delivery will also be permitted to open from 6 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.

While Arawak Cay, a popular restaurant and hangout spot on New Providence, remains closed, Minnis said the government is looking into protocols for the reopening of the area.

During the emergency period, some Bahamians have been upset that beaches across the country have been closed. Some will have to wait longer for them to be reopened.

Effective Tuesday, public beaches and parks will be open on all islands, except for Bimini, Eleuthera, Exuma, Grand Bahama, Harbour Island, New Providence, Paradise Island and San Salvador.

Worship services will be allowed to take place in the sanctuary of churches on Saturdays and Sundays, between 7 a.m. and 1 p.m., on New Providence, Grand Bahama and Bimini, according to health protocols, effective Saturday, June 6.

The closure of churches to full services has also been a hot issue during the emergency period, with some pastors declaring the prime minister has no authority to tell the church what to do.

After Golden Isles MP Vaughn Miller, an independent, noted in the House of Assembly that the restricted time will still be an issue for religious leaders, the prime minister indicated that he would be prepared to take another look at the time period being allowed for church services.

Minnis also announced that as of Tuesday, graduation ceremonies, funerals and weddings will be permitted to take place with up to 30 people attending.

He said all islands of The Bahamas, except for New Providence, Grand Bahama and Bimini, will be liberalized for commercial activity, effective Tuesday.

All non-essential storefront businesses on New Providence, Grand Bahama and Bimini, such as furniture stores, clothing, shoes, jewelry, cosmetics and other retail stores, will be allowed to resume business from Monday to Friday between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. effective Tuesday.

“I wish to be clear. Restaurants, except for curbside and deliveries, bars, gyms, hair salons and barbershops, movie theatres, cultural facilities and entertainment facilities remain closed on New Providence, Grand Bahama and Bimini,” Minnis said.

“I assure restaurant operators, hair salons and barbershops that we are working with the National COVID-19 Coordination Committee and industry partners to finalize protocols for operations.”

The prime minister’s previous decision to prevent gaming houses from resuming operations has also been controversial.

Yesterday, Minnis announced that effective Tuesday, gaming houses will be allowed to open with social distancing and sanitization protocols.

Law firms, justices of the peace and real estate agencies may now extend their operating hours to 5 p.m.

Additionally, financial services, inclusive of accounting services, may operate between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Auto parts stores, including mechanical work servicemen, may operate on all islands from Monday to Friday between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m.

The prime minister noted that the country is moving into the third phase of a five-phase plan to fully reopen the economy.

Unregulated vendors

Minnis commended Bahamians for the progress the country has made in reducing the spread of COVID-19.

“Because so many of us have worked with a spirit of solidarity, we have made tremendous progress,” he said.

“But there is still a long road ahead in this pandemic, including our economic recovery and the social needs of many of our citizens.”

The prime minister noted that moving forward, some things will have to change to prevent the potential for the resurgence of COVID-19 and the spread of other illnesses.

In particular, he said, unregulated street vendors will not be tolerated.

“Designated places have been identified by the members for Marco City and St. Barnabas (Michael Pintard and Shanendon Cartwright) and all vendors will be placed in designated spots,” he said.

“They will be required to have proper certification and if necessary, they will be required to have proper food handlers certificates.

“So, Mr. Speaker, this sprawling of vendors that we see today throughout New Providence will no longer be seen nor tolerated.

“There will be designated spots, so they can be monitored properly in a proper hygienic environment, so as to decrease the possibility of a resurgence of COVID or other illnesses.”

There have been 101 confirmed COVID-19 cases in The Bahamas. Minnis confirmed the latest case yesterday.

Eleven people have died.

The prime minister said while the emergency period is being extended to June 29, he may relax more restrictions before then.

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Rachel Knowles

Rachel joined The Nassau Guardian in January 2019. Rachel covers national issues. Education: University of Virginia in Charlottesville, BA in Foreign Affairs and Spanish

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