NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis announced today the weekend lockdown will be relaxed to allow for storm preparations ahead of Tropical Storm Isaias.
During a national address at the National Emergency Management Agency’s (NEMA) headquarters, Minnis announced the nationwide curfew will be extended to 10pm until 5am.
Food stores, water depots, pharmacies and gas stations will be permitted to open Saturday until 8pm if weather permits.
Hardware stores will also be able to open on Friday and Saturday until 8pm.
Freedom of movement will be permitted for storm preparations, Minnis said.
The prime minister also announced all government offices will close at noon tomorrow to allow public servants to prepare
He said a lockdown will still be necessary following the storm — a measure he called absolutely necessary to curb the spread of COVID-19.
He discouraged COVID or hurricane parties, noting residents have booked hotel stays for the upcoming holiday weekend.
The prime minister sent a specific warning to young people, urging them to use the relaxed restrictions to enhance safety and security as parties could lead to a further surge of cases in the weeks to come.
Minnis said the new measures were based on the location and risk associated with the storm; the number of deaths from COVID-19; the number of cases and the availability of ICU beds; as well as the number of hospital beds.
He said from past experienced storms can change course, and intensify as seen with Hurricane Dorian, which decimated portions of Abaco and Grand Bahamas last September.
The prime minister asked Bahamians and residents to take the storm seriously.
He said as government agencies plans as best they can, “we know that such events are often unpredictable and things can change very quickly”.
He said the country must act quickly and prepare for the worst, noting it was better to over-prepare to protect and save lives.
Minnis acknowledged changes to COVID-19 measures may be frustrating and challenged, but assured the government was acting on the best advice from health, security and weather officials.
He said the overall priority was the safety of the public.
According to the prime minister, there is a “dangerous surge” of COVID and the government must act swiftly.
Today, health officials confirmed three additional coronavirus-related deaths and 24 new infections.
Minnis added it is critical for the public to practice all physical distancing and sanitization measures amid the storm.
The Ministry of Health is expected to provide additional details on measures to curb the virus following the storm at a press conference tomorrow at 3pm.