The Bahamas will go on lockdown as of 10 p.m. today in an effort to contain the surge of COVID-19 cases, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis announced in a national address last night.
“The national lockdown will be for a minimum of two weeks,” Minnis said.
“Nearing the end of this period, we will assess the health data and advise whether a further lockdown period is necessary. The extension, relaxation or cessation of the national lockdown will, in part, be determined by the co-operation of Bahamians and residents alike.
“The longer we take collectively to bring this second wave under control, the longer it will take to resume a sense of normalcy.
“All of our actions, collectively, make a difference during this pandemic.”
His lockdown announcement — made on Emancipation Day — did not come as a surprise to many, as The Bahamas has experienced an exponential increase in COVID-19 cases since its borders reopened fully last month.
Up to that point, the country had recorded 104 cases. Since July 8, it has had 575 additional confirmed cases.
The prime minister said the government will determine whether the current lockdown of Grand Bahama, which was recently declared a COVID-19 hotspot, will be extended on Friday.
During the approaching national lockdown, food stores, water depots, pharmacies (from curbside or take-away windows only) and gas stations (for external services only) will be permitted to open to the public from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday and Friday; and from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday to essential workers.
“Food stores and pharmacies are encouraged to offer, and the public is encouraged to utilize, delivery services as much as practicable,” the prime minister said.
“The purpose of alternating days is based on health guidelines that strongly demonstrate that limiting movement, and having clear days where there is no movement, help to minimize the spread of this deadly disease.
“All households are asked to identify one person to be the designated shopper for each of the essential services I have identified above. Our enforcements will be monitoring this and the number of persons travelling in vehicles.”
The prime minister ordered the suspension of operations for all other businesses across The Bahamas, noting that staff should work remotely “where this is possible”.
He said there will be “limited exceptions” to this order.
Commercial banks will be permitted to operate until 1 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Accommodation will be made for international banks, trust companies and financial institutions to have a skeleton team in office on the same days.
Construction will be allowed to continue from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays and from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday.
Hardware stores will be allowed to provide curbside services from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
Private medical facilities will be permitted to provide emergency medical care and immunization services only on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. All routine services are to be suspended.
Home healthcare takers, certified by the Ministry of Health, will be allowed to carry out services.
Essential commercial ports will be permitted to carry on their respective services.
Caretakers will be allowed to maintain crops and animals.
Curbside and take-away dining and retail will be prohibited during the lockdown.
Individuals will be permitted to exercise in their immediate neighborhoods from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m.
Minnis said the secretary to the Cabinet and permanent secretaries will give instructions to public officers.
“I also wish to advise that live streaming from a religious facility will continue to be permitted during the lockdown — with no more than 10 individuals at the facility — to accommodate virtual services,” he said.
“Families will be permitted to lay to rest their loved ones. Funeral services will continue to be permitted at the graveside only with no more than five attendees, excluding the officiant and the mortuary staff.”
The prime minister said there is no change to travel policy.
The latest emergency order requires all visitors to quarantine at a government-identified facility or any other appropriate facility as determined by the Ministry of Health for 14 days upon entry to The Bahamas. All incoming passengers, including Bahamians, are required to provide a negative RT-PCR COVID-19 test.
“We enter this lockdown together as one people, as a Bahamian community united in love and a shared desire to fight this deadly virus together until the battle is finally over,” the prime minister said.
“I know that a lockdown like this is the last thing we wanted as a country. I know the nation is hurting; that our economy is in a terrible state; that many businesspeople are struggling; that many workers are now unemployed; that families are scared; that many of us are afraid of catching the virus.
“I offer deep condolences to all those who have lost loved ones because of COVID-19. We are also praying for all of those ill in hospital or at home.
“Let me say to you as your prime minister and as someone who long ago took a solemn medical oath to save lives: I will and I must do all that is right and necessary to protect your life and those of your loved ones, neighbors and fellow citizens.
“We are taking the required and necessary measures to comprehensively battle COVID-19.”
The prime minister advised that the country’s ICU beds are at capacity and that non-critical care beds are approaching capacity.
The Bahamas has recorded 14 COVID-19 deaths. As of yesterday, there were 22 hospitalized cases, 572 active cases and 91 recovered cases.