Minnis acknowledges some Bahamians will die
NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis said today the government must undergo “days of pain” in the weeks to come as he announced recurring nationwide lockdowns this month.
Minnis explained health officials have called for additional physical distancing measures to prevent continued community spread by asymptomatic “super spreaders”.
He maintained the government moved to implement stringent measures at an early stage, but despite this, “Bahamians will die”.
As of Sunday, there were 29 confirmed COVID-19 cases and five virus related deaths.
“This pandemic has killed more than 70,000 people around the world,” Minnis told Parliament.
“It has killed young and old, rich and poor. It does not discriminate. It is estimated that in the United States alone that between 100,000 and 200,000 individuals may die.
“No one is exempt and no one has found to be immune.
“It is sad to say that Bahamians will die and some have already died, and I have sent condolences to their families. As prime minister and a medical doctor it is my duty to do what is necessary to protect out people.”
Minnis continued: “We may experience five days of pain but a lifetime of resolution.”
He added: “The lockdown means you may not leave the property unless for a specific function provided in the lockdown order.
“This includes leaving the property to exercise, but [you must] stay in your home or yard.”
Minnis announced a further complete nationwide shutdown to begin Wednesday at 9pm as The Bahamas experiences a “surge” of COVID-19 cases.
Addressing the House of Assembly, he said complete country lockdowns will occur every weekend thereafter for the month of April, beginning on Fridays at 9pm until Mondays at 5am.
The impending lockdown will end on April 14 at 5am.
The Bahamas will remain under emergency orders, which expect to be extended, and a 24-hour curfew.
Due to asymptomatic carriers spreading the virus, and the advice of medical professionals, the government may impose longer lockdowns over the coming weeks, Minnis said.
This may require a further extension of the public state of emergency and emergency orders.
He said aggressive contract tracing is ongoing to find these “super spreaders”.
The prime minister explained it was the government’s intention to implement another lockdown on Friday, but after consultation with health professionals, it was determined that to wait would place the country at greater risk.
He said he made a decision very quickly “in the interest of the nation”.
The 24-hour curfew means residents cannot not leave their homes, save for essential services, or unless an individual is an essential worker or designated an essential worker in an exempted business.
Notwithstanding the end of the first lockdown, Minnis advised all residents in Bimini stay at home and remain indoors.
A Bimini resident who died last week marked the first COVID-19 death in The Bahamas.
As it relates to the curfew, the prime minister said there continues to be too many violators, who have the ability to undermine the efforts to combat the virus.
He noted that in other jurisdictions, authorities have been ordered to shoot those who resist the lockdown orders and endanger lives.
The prime minister made clear that he does not support these measures, but wished to underline the seriousness of the global fight against the pandemic.
He was referring to the Philippines, where President Rodrigo Duterte has said he ordered soldiers to shoot to kill if protests over food and relief supplies become violent amid its strict lockdown that began over two weeks ago.
A shopping schedule was implemented today in The Bahamas, advising residents of the days and times they may shop.
The prime minister acknowledged there were those less fortunate, who may only have the means to shop for a few items at a time based on finances.
To limit spread by asymptomatic carriers, Minnis encouraged the public to wear non-medical masks while in public areas.
He said those who are not medical or frontline personnel should refrain from purchasing medically-approved masks to save them for health workers who are at greater risk.
He encouraged all retailers which have stocks of medically-approved masks to contact the government.
Minnis said the sale of medical masks to the public will soon be prohibited, but noted the government has enabled the production of cotton, washable, masks though several companies.
Among the local producers were Bahamas Hand Prints and the Uniform Store on Mackey St.
Minnis said the Small Business Development Centre has also been directed to source tailors and seamstresses in the Family Islands, to produce masks.
Cruise ships and pleasure vessels
Minnis said the defense force has mobilized throughout the Family Islands to provide greater oversight.
He said The Bahamas is allowing a number of cruise ships, empty of passengers, to remain in its territorial waters, and strict protocols remain in place for these vessels sheltering in the country.
For example, no ship or personnel may disembark at any time, without the explicit permission of the prime minister.
Minnis said emergency measures were being considered and drafted for pleasure vessels, namely yachts, in Bahamian waters.
Yesterday was observed as Palm Sunday.
The prime minister emphasized with families who have been unable to bury loved ones due to the complete lockdown and said discussions are ongoing with the funeral association to determine the way forward.
“We are losing loved ones; some are experiencing ill health and some are critically ill.
“Family and friends are confronting the death of loved ones.
“We are feeling the loss of those who have contributed so much to our society over so many years.
“One of the most unforeseen consequences of the emergency orders was the postponement of several funerals planned over the past weeks. I know this added to the grief of those who were unable to bury or to say a final earthly farewell to their loved one.
“I know this is extremely painful, but I want to assure that this difficult decision was taken to protect and to save lives.”