GB declared COVID-19 hotspot, borders close at 6pm

GB declared COVID-19 hotspot, borders close at 6pm
Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis gives a statement on Grand Bahama, July 21, 2020, outside the Churchill Building. (BIS PHOTO/KEMUEL STUBBS)

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Grand Bahama will be closed to all domestic flights today at 6pm and all international flights starting Wednesday, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis announced this morning.

The measures were announced in addition to a two-week lockdown to curb the recent surge of COVID-19 cases on the island.

The lockdown will take effect Thursday, July 23, at 7pm until August 7 at 5am.

A complete lockdown will be in effect on Saturdays and Sundays, Minnis announced.

Health officials have classified the island as a COVID-19 hotspot.

Grand Bahama now has the second largest number of confirmed cases in The Bahamas.

“Grand Bahama’s domestic borders will close tonight, and its international borders will be closed to all incoming and outgoing flights and sea vessels to and from Grand Bahama, except for emergencies and to transport, essential services and goods, effective Wednesday the 22nd of July 2020,” Minnis said during a broadcasted national address in front of the Churchill Building.

The prime minister also announced law enforcement will provide additional support, and security to enforce the lockdown.

He said the Royal Bahamas Defence Force will also set up a perimeter around the island to ensure no ships enter or leave.

The prime minister noted the decision to increase restrictive measures on the island was based on the advice of health officials and the confirmation of 20 new cases of the virus on Grand Bahama on Monday.

“Residents are urged to make the necessary preparations for the lockdown,” Minnis said.

He advised that a seven-member team from the Ministry of Health was mobilized on Grand Bahama last week to assist with identification, testing and mapping of contacts for characterization of the epidemiological situation following the significant increase in cases.

Assistance

The prime minister insisted the government will provide assistance to all those in need during the two-week period.

He advised that The National Food Distribution Task Force and the Department of Social Services will distribute food vouchers to 14,000 residents.

Minnis also assured residents of Grand Bahama that there is adequate food supplies on the island at all of the food stores.

“It is important that residents do not overcrowd the food stores as this may contribute to the spread of COVID-19,” he said.

Food stores will be allowed to operate Monday to Friday, from 7am to 5pm, during the lockdown.

Pharmacies, water depots and gas stations will be allowed to operate Monday through Friday, from 7am to 1pm for the general public.

Essential workers will be allowed to go to food stores on Saturdays from 7am to 1pm.

Essential workers include: employees at The Rand Memorial Hospital and other public health and medical facilities; Quarantine Centre; Royal Bahamas Police Force; Royal Bahamas Defence Force; NEMA; OPBAT; Department of Correctional Services; Department of Immigration; Customs Department; Ministry of Environment and Housing; members of the National Food Distribution Task Force, Grand Bahama Food Distribution Centres; and NGOs for the purpose of food distribution.

Exempted industrial businesses include: Polymers International; Grand Bahama Power Company; Grand Bahama Utility Company; Bradford Grand Bahama Limited; PharmaChem Technologies G.B. Ltd. and subcontractors; Freeport Container Port Ltd; Bahama Rock; Martin Marietta; Buckeye Bahamas Hub Ltd and subcontractors; Grand Bahama Shipyard; Bahamas Industrial Technologies Ltd.; Bahamian Brewery; Tropical Shipping; MSC Bahamas; Freeport Aggregates Ltd; and Quality Services Ltd.

Print and electronic media, security guard companies, Grand Bahama Airport Company and Air Traffic Controllers are also exempted from the order.

The prime minister also advised that all construction activity related to hurricane restoration and hurricane preparedness will be permitted.

As of yesterday, there were 174 confirmed COVID-19 cases in The Bahamas.

There have been 70 new infections since July 1 when the country reopens its borders.

Fifty-nine of those cases have been on Grand Bahama.