24hr curfew, border shutdown extended for nine days
Rate of infection still unknown, virus “widespread in community”
Liquor stores will not open
Quarantined people monitored by phone
NASSAU, BAHAMAS — As he announced the confirmation of three new COVID-19 positive cases, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis said officials expected more cases over the next 20 days.
Parliamentarians will debate today on a resolution to extend the state of emergency and emergency powers orders for another nine days.
An extension means the nation’s borders will continue to be shut to all incoming traffic, including Bahamians and legal residents trying to get home.
It also means the 24-hour curfew, shutdown of most businesses, and closure of the roads to non-essential traffic will remain in force until April 8.
Minnis said: “My number one priority, each of our priorities, must be to save lives and to protect our health and the health of our loved ones, neighbors and fellow Bahamians and residents.”
“I want this curfew to end as soon as possible,” he continued.
“I want these restrictions over as soon as possible. But for now we have to stop the spread of this virus.”
Opposition Leader Philip Davis yesterday called on the government to lift travel restrictions to allow Bahamians to return home, or to make provisions for them to be accommodated abroad.
Davis also backed the reopening of liquor stores, and for Arawak Cay vendors to be allowed to offer takeout services during the imposition of the COVID-19 emergency orders.
Yesterday, Minnis said the liquor stores and the nation’s borders will remain closed.
The prime minister added he was not “advised by or moved by” the opposition leader but guided by medical advice from health experts.
“The number of infections continues to rise, though we still do not fully know the rate of infection, which we continue to analyze and to assess,” Minnis said during his prepared remarks.
“What we do know is that a rise in infections means there is community spread.”
“Community spread is a medical term. To put it in everyday language this means that the virus is going around.
He said: “The virus is here and going around.”
The total number of cases in the country stood at 14 on Sunday – two in Grand Bahama and 12 in New Providence.
During his remarks, Minnis said this represents a doubling of confirmed cases over the last four days.
He reiterated the country was at the beginning of an “expected surge” that demanded an increase in preventative measures.
Two of the COVID-19 positive individuals have been admitted to the Doctor’s Hospital facility on Blake Road.
One of those hospitalized patients is a new case, according to Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr Pearl McMillan.
All other cases are reportedly in stable condition and quarantined at home.
McMillan said the new cases were not connected to the previous patients; however, she noted some linkages were starting to emerge from the data.
The Ministry of Health’s Surveillance Unit has begun geographic information system (GIS) mapping, according to McMillan, who maintained preliminary plotting has confirmed community spread.
Mapping efforts will inform the ministry’s response strategy, aid early detention and decrease the need for hospital services, Minnis said.
“It is critical that each and every one of us take personal responsibility and do everything in our power to reduce the spread of this virus,” he said.
“The Government will continue to closely monitor the increases in cases on a daily basis and respond accordingly.”
“Our response to COVID-19 is guided by the analysis and advice provided by the health professionals coordinating the response to this Coronavirus,” Minnis added.
The national lab has now tested more than 200 people, according to the CMO.
As of Sunday, there were 120 people in quarantine – two in government quarantine, with the remainder being monitored at home.
McMillan said individuals in quarantine were being monitored daily through calls to check if they develop symptoms.
“It’s almost impossible to actually have patrols, we ask them to be responsible and quarantine,” she said.
“We monitor whether they are developing symptoms, we do that on a daily basis.”
Yesterday, Minnis stressed the country must work as a “united citizen army” to fight against the virus’ spread.
“We are now a citizen army, fighting this threat together,” he said.
“Many on the frontlines in our citizen army are our dedicated medical professionals who are putting themselves at risk on our behalf,
“As a sign of gratitude, I ask you to be a part of this citizen army by doing all you can to limit the spread of this infection.
Minnis said citizens can play their part by following health advice and emergency regulations, and ensuring their family, friends and neighbors do the same.