All schools will close for a month, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis announced today as he outlined the government’s response to the COVID-19 threat.
Minnis made the announcement during a national address, which came hours after officials confirmed the first case of COVID-19 on New Providence.
“Schools will be closed as of tomorrow, Monday, March 16th until Tuesday, April 14th,” Minnis said a short while ago.
Minnis also announced that foreign guests with recent travel to the United Kingdom, Ireland and Europe will be prohibited entry into The Bahamas.
“This is in addition to restrictions already in place for China, Iran, Italy and South Korea,” he said.
The new travel restrictions will come into effect on Thursday.
“All Bahamian nationals and residents returning to The Bahamas through any point of entry from any of the restricted countries or an area where community infection and spread is present will be quarantined or be placed under self-isolation upon arrival and are expected to follow the protocols of the Ministry of Health,” Minnis added.
He said residents should avoid non-essential travel.
The prime minister advised that all national sporting events will be postponed until further notice and discouraged large gatherings. He also noted that there is an “indefinite suspension” of all permits for use of public open spaces.
The COVID-19 outbreak, which has since been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization, has spread to all continents except Antarctica, with major outbreaks in China, South Korea, Iran and Italy and has caused a slowdown in air and sea travel.
Several major cruise lines have suspended their operations.
Minnis noted the far-reaching impact that the outbreak will have on the Bahamian economy.
“This will affect Bahamian workers and businesses and will have an impact on the poorer and more vulnerable in our country,” he said.
“I will be meeting and consulting with major business entities to get their input on our national response.
“No sector is more at risk than travel.
“This crisis will have a tremendous and widespread economic impact.”
Minnis assured that there will be adequate food at food stores.
“There is no need for panic buying,” he said.
He called on Bahamians to protect themselves.
“This is a national fight and we all have a role to play in this crisis,” he said.
“It is a battle for which must all be prepared.
“We bear a personal responsibility for our personal health and hygiene and the health of our loved ones, especially older parents and children.”
Minnis said Doctors Hospital on Blake Road has been secured as a facility to treat individuals who test positive for COVID-19.
“Those treating patients will utilize various protocols to protect themselves,” he said.
“This facility will be secured by defense force officers.
“No visitors will be allowed into the facility unless authorized.”
He said the government is securing another facility for quarantine purposes.