NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis said yesterday that while health officials were not minded to recommend increased restrictions ahead of the Easter holiday period, despite an increase of cases on certain islands, an assessment will be made the following week to determine if further restrictions will be necessary.
He made the statement as The Bahamas received its first tranche — 33,600 doses — of COVID-19 vaccines from the World Health Organization (WHO)/Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) COVAX Facility.
“Easter weekend is traditionally a time of family gathering and fellowship, including beach picnics,” Minnis said at Jet Aviation minutes after the doses of AstraZeneca arrived.
“But we are still in the midst of the pandemic.
“There are not normal times.
“The COVID-19 cases numbers in The Bahamas and around the world make it clear that the pandemic is not over.”
Cases of the virus have increased 15 percent week-on-week.
The majority of these cases have been recorded on New Providence, Grand Bahama, Abaco and Eleuthera.
Nations around the world, including many European Union countries, India and the Americas, continue to battle ongoing surges of the virus, new COVID-19 variants and fatigue with health protocols.
Minnis pointed out that the ongoing emergency orders in The Bahamas mandate groups cannot gather in numbers larger than five on beaches and parks on New Providence and Grand Bahama.
While he said COVID ambassadors will monitor activities over the holiday weekend and enforce the orders when needed, large gatherings “could set the country back”.
Though notably sluggish, The Bahamas’ economy is largely open with restrictions such as the ongoing 10pm to 5am curfew, wearing of facial masks, social distancing and sanitization.
Minnis encouraged the public to exercise discipline for a bit longer, noting that with adherence to health protocols and more people taking the COVID-19 vaccine, “we will move even quicker toward a broader reopening of the country”.
The prime minister said a third wave of COVID-19 in The Bahamas would be painful.
Director of the National HIV/AIDS and Infectious Disease Programme Dr Nikkiah Forbes told Eyewitness News on Sunday that the country could be on the brink of a third wave given the sustained increase in cases in the last few weeks.
However, she said a third wave could be prevented with adherence to health protocols, as seen late last year when daily infections were in the single-digits to low double-digits.
Minnis said: “We cannot afford a painful third wave. We all have to do our part.
“We don’t want another surge in cases, more hospitalizations and more deaths.”
Hospitalizations in The Bahamas increased from 11 on March 17 to 31 on March 29.
There have been challenges with vaccine manufacturers meeting global supply, a point PAHO underscored yesterday.
The Bahamas is expected to receive the balance of its 100,800 allocations before the end of May.