NASSAU, BAHAMAS — As The Bahamas grapples with another surge of COVID-19 cases, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis announced yesterday that enforcement of the emergency orders will be “increased and enhanced”.
“To address the increase in cases, we need every Bahamian and resident to fully practice all the public health measures,” he said during a communication to Parliament.
“Throughout the pandemic, my government and I have crafted policy with our public health experts.
“We have worked to save lives and livelihoods.
“We only tighten restrictions via the emergency powers when it is necessary.
“When conditions improve, we loosen the measures.
“If we did not have the emergency powers, there would be chaos and more sickness and more deaths.”
He continued: “Members of the public are asked to please comply.
“I am asking businesses that are able to do so to have their employees work from home where possible to decrease the spread of COVID-19.
“I note that this is a voluntary request.”
The prime minister announced that domestic travelers, once fully vaccinated, will be exempted from the requirement to obtain a negative RT-PCR COVID test, while international travelers who have been fully vaccinated and passed the two-week inoculation period will be exempted from the testing requirement as of May 1.
He said fully vaccinated individuals will also be able to gather among one another and will be permitted to dine indoors.
The prime minister urged residents to get the vaccine and encouraged them to hold on for another couple of weeks in strict adherence to the emergency orders.
International travel, parties, new COVID variants entering the country and other breaches of the emergency orders have been attributed to the early onset of a third wave in The Bahamas.
Around 22,000 people have been vaccinated with a first dose of the vaccine to date.
The government has been working “day and night” to get vaccines to The Bahamas, Minnis said.
The COVAX Facility is expected to deliver an additional 33,000 vaccine doses to the country before the end of May, leaving a remaining 34,200 doses to be received.
According to the prime minister, there will also be stiffer penalties for failure to abide by the requirement to submit RT-PCR tests to the Ministry of Health’s surveillance unit — a fine that currently stands at $20,000.
“I met with representatives of the testing laboratories yesterday morning,” Minnis said.
“I reminded them of the requirement to submit COVID-19 test results to the Ministry of Health’s surveillance team.
“I also reminded them of the fine for not submitting the test results as required.
“The fine is $20,000.
“The requirement to submit data will be tightened for the RT-PCR test result being submitted within 23 hours.
“There will be stiffer penalties for failure to abide by this requirement.
“This is a part of our heightened surveillance strategy to combat the increase in cases.”