NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis yesterday said more restrictive measures, like a full lockdown, may be recommended if attempts to mitigate the resurgence of COVID-19 in Grand Bahama are unsuccessful by Friday.
There have been 49 new cases since the country’s borders fully opened on July 1st, with 31 of those new cases recorded on Grand Bahama.
Officials reported 15 new cases on Sunday – the highest daily total recorded to date.
Minnis said surveillance teams have traced many of the cases to Bahamians returning to The Bahamas.
He announced a ban on all incoming commercial flights and vessels, with the exception of carriers from Canada, the United Kingdom and the European Union.
Private international flights and charters, as well as private pleasure craft and yachts from all countries may still to enter The Bahamas.
Prior to the spike in cases, Grand Bahama had not reported any new cases for a little over two months.
“The increase in cases coincided with the re-institution of international flights and passenger sea transport,” Minnis said yesterday.
“Regrettably, surveillance teams have traced many of the cases to Bahamians returning to The Bahamas.”
A new curfew has been established for Grand Bahama between 7pm to 5am, effective today.
All public and private beaches and parks will be closed until further notice, effective today at 5am.
On Wednesday, International and domestic 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.
Ferry boat operations between East End, Grand Bahama and Crown Haven, Abaco have been suspended, effective today at 5am.
Minnis said health officials on Grand Bahama have also recommended stricter enforcement of social distancing and mask wearing, with fines for non-compliance.
Indoor dining has been prohibited; however, outdoor dining, takeaway and curbside delivery will be permitted.
Bars remain closed, he said.
“All Fish Fry’s inclusive of, but not limited to Eight Mile Rock, Smith’s Point, West End and Williams Town will be closed effective Monday the 20th July.
All congregant activities and gatherings, inclusive of religious services, weddings and funerals and sporting activities have also been prohibited, effective today.
However, restrictions do not include students taking national examinations.
Minnis said: “If efforts to decrease the number of cases are unsuccessful, other restrictive measures may be recommended, including a lockdown beginning Friday 24th of July.
“Early identification of contacts is essential for mitigation and control of spread. To enhance the capacity of health officials on the island in this regard, a seven-member team from the Ministry of Health arrived on Grand Bahama yesterday, Saturday the 18th of July.
“This team is assisting with identification, testing and mapping of contacts for characterization of the epidemiological situation following the significant increase in the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases on that island.”
Minnis said the health team is made up of three physicians, one microbiologist and three nurses who will provide public health and clinical support to the Grand Bahama team.
The team’s assistance will include public education sessions, data gathering exercises, case investigations, contact tracing as well as sample collection.
Yesterday, Minnis urged Grand Bahamians to cooperate with the health measures.
“If we address the current increase in confirmed cases as quickly as possible, Grand Bahama can return to a greater sense of normalcy as soon as possible,” he said.
“Let us work together to get Grand Bahama back up and running as quickly as possible. I ask Grand Bahamians to work in a spirit of unity in the battle against COVID-19.”