The Bahamas was on Monday undertaking another phased reopening its economy from “the worst economic downturn in most of our lifetimes”, with Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis urging the population to continue to implement the measures put in place to curb the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) that has killed 13 people and infected 2,167 in the archipelago.
“I invite the residents of every Family Island to follow the specific orders, guidelines, and restrictions in your communities. I want to offer particular caution and encouragement for the residents of Grand Bahama, and especially New Providence, where the number of COVID-19 cases remains high.”
The latest figures released by the Ministry of Health late Sunday showed that there were 32 additional confirmed cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 2,167.
The authorities said that there were 1,345 cases in New Providence, followed by 550 in Grand Bahama, 67 in Abaco, and 53 in Bimini. The other islands had cases ranging from one in Andros to 19 in Exuma.
“The Ministry of Health also confirms that there are three additional deaths now under investigation. Consequently, the number of deaths under investigation are now tallied at 13,” it said, urging the public to practice the measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
In his address, Minnis called on citizens to follow the well-known health and life-saving measures, particularly wearing masks, maintaining appropriate physical distance, and staying at home when you do not need to be out.
“Do not let your guard down. We are still in a marathon fight against COVID-19. Let me say to you again. This is not a time for large parties, socials, or group gatherings, which can further spread the virus, which is easy to catch.
“We are trying to reopen in a measured manner, allowing certain activities in accordance with specific guidelines, restrictions, and health and safety protocols.”
He said for example, on New Providence, Grand Bahama, and on the islands in the Second Schedule of the Order, barbers, and beauticians may open, with one person per service provider, landscape service providers may operate Monday through Saturday for a 12 hour period, while retail businesses may operate for the same six-day period for 13 hour period, utilizing curbside or delivery services.
“However, clothing and fabric stores may also offer in-store service with physical distancing, sanitization, and mask protocols. Restaurants may offer to take away, drive-thru, and outdoor dining,” Minnis said, adding that public transportation may operate at 50 percent capacity, subject to health guidelines.
“Even during the most difficult times such as these, including the worst economic downturn in most of our lifetimes, there are things we can all do for our country, no matter our particular circumstances. We can encourage each other. We can pray unceasingly for our country. We can consistently practice the basic health measures that protect each other.”
Minnis said that the Ministry of Education will hold a press conference later on Monday to provide a comprehensive update on the upcoming academic year.
“As it relates to in-person worship services on New Providence and other congregant activities on islands with a curfew in place, we will continue to follow the advice of public health officials to determine when to safely resume these activities.”
He said the authorities have been able to increase hospital capacity including for COVID patients; created a COVID-19 Enforcement Unit; increased testing capacity; improved the turnaround time for test results and generally improved the analysis of health data.
“Of course, there is still more to be done in terms of our health response and we are doing so,” he said, adding “let me also assure you that the Royal Bahamas Police Force remains on high alert.
“We should all be vigilant in terms of safety and security during the phased re-opening of the economy,” Minnis added