Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis yesterday announced the intention to extend the state of emergency brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic to October 31, and appealed to Bahamians to sacrifice three more weeks “for a lifetime of success”.
The current emergency period is set to expire on September 30.
As he tabled a resolution in the House of Assembly for the extension, Minnis urged Bahamians to adhere to the COVID-19 protocols for the next three weeks.
“I’m still somewhat disappointed by the amount of illegal social gatherings and parties that are still occurring,” he said.
“I ask the Bahamian people, if they can at least remain compliant, just at least until the end of this particular month, by wearing facial masks and trying to resist from such social gatherings, it would do a lot for their country in that it would accelerate the process of the decline and decrease in COVID cases that we’re seeing, and would help us in opening our country a lot sooner and would help them in returning back to their jobs, create opportunities for jobs, and I think it would help the country.
“So, I am just asking, Mr. Speaker, that [the] Bahamian populace just make three weeks of sacrifice by utilizing the masks and I know it’s uncomfortable and discomforting for some, but what is three weeks of discomfort for a lifetime of success, both economic and for the future of this country?”
It was unclear what the significance is of the three-week timeframe. While Minnis speaks of “remaining compliant at least until the end of the month”, there are only two weeks left in September.
Three weeks would take the country to October 7.
The Ministry of Tourism has targeted October 15 as the date for hotels to resume full operations and for beaches to open fully.
Major resorts like Baha Mar and Atlantis, however, have not yet announced opening dates.
There has been no indication that the government intends to ease restrictions put in place for anyone traveling to The Bahamas to be tested for COVID-19 within five days of travel and to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival or for the duration of their stay in the country, if it is shorter.
Minnis tabled the resolution during what House Speaker Halson Moultrie termed an “extraordinary” sitting of the House yesterday morning. The brief sitting came one day after a parliamentary staffer tested positive for COVID-19.
The prime minister gave notice that the government plans to debate the resolution at the next meeting on September 23.
Governor General C. A. Smith declared a state of emergency on March 18, three days after The Bahamas confirmed its first COVID-19 case.
A “procedural oversight” in the Office of the Attorney General led to the inadvertent expiration of the first state of emergency on June 29, leading to the governor general’s declaration of a new state of emergency on the same day.
Had that error not occurred, the six month period permitted by the constitution for a state of emergency would have expired this month.
While the government has said the June emergency proclamation provides for a fresh six months, some legal observers have argued that the constitution does not envision a second proclamation — and by extension a new six month period — for the same emergency.
Over the course of the last six months, there have been numerous lockdowns, curfews and other restrictive measures to fight COVID-19 in The Bahamas.
As Parliament prepares to debate the resolution for the extension at its next sitting, The Bahamas continues to battle the novel coronavirus.
Chief Medical Officer Dr. Pearl McMillan said on Monday that a graph that shows a national breakdown of cases “reminds us that we remain in the fight against COVID-19”.
But she said that in the week prior, new cases on New Providence had been on a decline.
“On average, for the last week, 40 new cases are being reported in New Providence per day,” McMillan said.
As of yesterday, The Bahamas recorded a total of 3,087 cases of COVID-19. There are 1,533 recovered cases and 69 deaths. Twelve deaths are under investigation.
New Providence has recorded a total of 2,107 cases.
Yesterday, 55 news cases were confirmed — 51 on New Providence; three on Abaco and the location for one was pending. On Tuesday, 24 cases were confirmed — 20 on New Providence; one on Grand Bahama; one on Long Island and the location for two was pending.
On Monday, 34 cases were confirmed — 23 on New Providence; three on Grand Bahama; three on Eleuthera; two on Long Island; one on Abaco; one on Exuma and one on Inagua.
Prior to the full reopening of the country’s borders on July 1, there had been 104 cases and 11 deaths nationally. Minnis had announced that community spread had been contained.
Last week, the prime minister said he does not expect to order any further lockdowns and spoke of a need to balance public health against economic sustainability.