After an explosion of new COVID-19 cases on Grand Bahama, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis yesterday announced that the island will be placed on a two week long lockdown starting tomorrow.
“This measure is absolutely necessary in order to save and to protect the lives of the residents of Grand Bahama,” Minnis said outside the Churchill Building.
“Epidemiological management of the COVID-19 outbreak in Grand Bahama requires strict adherence to shelter in place to prevent and to control the spread, which will worsen if preventative measures are not taken quickly and adhered to.
“After a little more than two months without recording any new cases of COVID-19, Grand Bahama has recently seen a significant increase in cases.
“The island has been classified as a COVID-19 hotspot by health officials.”
Since July 8, Grand Bahama has seen a total of 61 new COVID-19 cases after having recorded no new cases since May 5.
Minnis said the lockdown will take effect Thursday, July 23 at 7 p.m. and end Friday, August 7 at 5 a.m.
“A lockdown like this is not something that would have been preferred,” Minnis said.
“But it is absolutely necessary because things will get much worse on Grand Bahama if we don’t take this strong measure now.”
Minnis said the measure is to slow and control the community spread of the virus on the island.
All domestic flights in and out of Grand Bahama ceased yesterday at 6 p.m.
The island’s international borders are also closed to all incoming and outgoing flights and sea vessels, except for emergencies and to transport essential services and goods. Those moves were expected to be implemented today.
However, due to the daily increase in cases, Minnis said health officials urged him to act.
“During my National Address this past Sunday, I announced a number of restrictive measures for Grand Bahama to help control the spread of COVID-19 on the island,” he said.
“I advised that if efforts to decrease the number of cases were unsuccessful, other restrictive measures may be recommended, including a lockdown beginning Friday the 24th of July.
“However, based on the advice of health officials and the confirmation of 20 new cases of COVID-19 on Grand Bahama just yesterday (Monday), the decision was made to increase restrictive measures as soon as practicable.”
The prime minister noted that outside of New Providence, Grand Bahama now has the largest number of recorded cases in The Bahamas.
“You should not leave your home during the week unless you have to purchase food, water, medicine or for some other essential purpose, or you are an essential worker,” he said.
On Saturdays and Sundays a “complete lockdown” will be in place, he said.
To ensure the lockdown measures will be strictly enforced additional support, security and enforcement from the Royal Bahamas Police Force and Royal Bahamas Defence Force will be provided.
During the lockdown food stores will be allowed to operate Monday to Friday 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Pharmacies, water depots and gas stations will be allowed to operate Monday to Friday 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. for the general public.
The Grand Bahama Humane Society, as well as the island’s waste disposal and sanitation companies will be permitted to open Monday to Friday 7 a.m. to 1 p.m.
As for essential workers, Minnis said food stores, pharmacies, gas stations and water depots will be allowed to operate on Saturdays 7 a.m. to 1 p.m.
While he gave Grand Bahama residents two days to prepare for the lockdown, he encouraged them not to crowd stores.
“The number of confirmed cases is expected to increase if much of the population continues to fail to practice recommendations for physical distancing, wearing protective face coverings and frequent and thorough hand washing,” he said.
There is still widespread construction on going on the island as residents and business continue to rebuild following the destruction left by Hurricane Dorian last September.
However, Minnis encouraged residents to get their construction supplies before the lockdown takes effect.
He said permission to purchase supplies during the lockdown will only be granted for emergency purposes.
Construction activity related to hurricane restoration and hurricane preparedness, however, will be permitted. If supplies are needed, application should be made to the competent authority.
During the lockdown churches will be closed and religious services held only virtually.
Funerals may be held but at the graveside only with a maximum of 10 people, including the officiant.
“I know that a measure like this even further disrupts daily life and economic activity,” Minnis said.
“But we are in an emergency situation. We must work now to stop the spread of the virus on Grand Bahama before it gets even more out of control. Time is of the essence.”
According to the prime minister it is anticipated that food vouchers will be distributed to 14,000 residents.
On Monday, health officials said 20 of the 21 confirmed cases were on Grand Bahama.
The resurgences of COVID-19 on that island came after no cases were confirmed for 63 days.
Minister of Health Renward Wells and Minister of Education Jeffrey Lloyd are expected to make statements in Parliament this morning regarding Grand Bahama COVID-19’s effect on operations within their ministries on that island.