NASSAU, BAHAMAS — While easing restrictions for religious services and permitting limited social gathering later on this month through early January, the latest emergency orders also provides for “holiday shopping” on at least two Sundays in December.
Holiday shopping during the season traditionally acts as a stimulus to retailers, but with continued restrictions on businesses in The Bahamas since early July — during the second wave of the virus — retailers have seen substantial losses.
For islands in the second schedule — New Providence, Rose Island, Paradise Island and Abaco with the exception of Green Turtle Cay, Grand Cay, Man-O-Way Cay and Elbow Cay — a curfew remains in place between 10pm and 5am daily.
A wide range of essential and retail businesses may open between 6am and 9pm Monday through Saturday.
“Any retail business permitted to operate under order 40 shall be permitted to operate on Sunday the 13th day of December, 2020, and Sunday the 20th day of December, 2020, between the hours of 6am and 9pm,” the order reads under the header “Holiday shopping”.
The competent authority, the prime minister, signed the orders on December 8.
The order also reads: “A person shall be permitted to sell Christmas trees provided the person has the required business license and permit for the location.”
Casinos, spas, bars, cinemas and cultural or entertainment events remain prohibited businesses.
According to the orders, religious services can be conducted between 6am and 9pm daily.
As announced by the prime minister during a national address Sunday, religious services may operate beyond the curfew hours between December 24 and January 3 in accordance with protocols established by the Bahamas Christian Council.
Schools may operate virtually or with in-person learning.
The Ministry of Education must authorize the latter method of learning.
Weddings may be held with no more than 10 people, but receptions remain prohibited.
Similarly, funerals may be held with graveside or interment service only with a maximum of 10 people.
Restaurants may operate Monday through Saturday between 6am and 9pm using curbside, drive-thru, takeaway and outdoor dining.
On Sundays, restaurants may operate between 6am and 9pm using drive-thru and takeaway services only.
On Eleuthera, which has a 10pm to 5am curfew imposed, restaurants may offer inside and outside dining.
This includes mobile takeaway restaurants.
Social gatherings remain prohibited on islands in the second schedule.
However, the orders exempt the period December 20, 2020 through January 3, 2021, for social gatherings of no more than 10 people at a private residence or facility.
The prime minister announced the relaxed measure in an effort to ensure families have a good Christmas.
Beaches and parks remain open, but must not be attended in groups larger than five.
For Eleuthera, beaches and parks can open between 5am and 10pm.
Exercise restrictions remain the same.
Individuals are permitted to exercise outside their residence or immediate neighborhood between 5am and 10pm, as well as in groups outdoors with no more than 10 people.
Meanwhile, construction is permitted on Monday to Friday between 6am and 9pm and on Saturday between 6am and 5pm.
For Abaco, which remains in recovery mode since Hurricane Dorian impacted the islands last September, construction is permitted during the week between 6am and 9pm, and on Saturday and Sunday between 6am and 6pm.
Construction companies can apply in writing to the competent authority to operate on Sunday.
To enter The Bahamas or travel inter-island, a person must obtain a negative RT-PCR COVID-19 test within five days of travel, a health visa and a follow-up rapid antigen test on day five of travel.
However, a person traveling from any island except New Providence or Grand Bahama to another island shall not be required to undergo an RT-PCR COVID-19 test in order to obtain a health travel visa.
According to the orders, a person who enters The Bahamas and transits through New Providence to a Family Island within a period of less than 24 hours shall not be required to obtain a further travel visa.
Travel is prohibited to and from islands under lockdown, impending lockdowns and or 24-hour curfews, the order reads.
As a condition of entry into The Bahamas, travelers must self-report on their condition via a daily health questionnaire for the first 14 days of their stay and agree to be monitored by the COVID-19 enforcement unit, as well as agree to unscheduled visits from the police force.
Visitors who refuse to be monitored will be deported, while citizens or residents who refuse will be required to quarantine.
A person who is required to quarantine must do so at a government-identified facility or one deemed appropriate by the Ministry of Health.
This includes a hotel room.
With the exception of Grand Bahama, which has a 10pm to 5am daily curfew, islands in the first schedule of the orders do not have a curfew.
The exemption to religious service between December 24 and January 3 applies to Grand Bahama and Eleuthera.
The orders provide for social gatherings of no more than 20 people at a private residence or facility.
Beaches and parks on Grand Bahama can open between 5am and 8pm.
Beaches and parks on other islands in the first schedule remain open with health guidelines.