108,000 people are receiving food assistance
NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis has announced a national lockdown for the entire country that will begin tomorrow at 10pm.
Minnis announced the move as he revealed ICU beds are at capacity and non-critical care beds are approaching capacity due to the continued surge in COVID-19 cases.
He said the lockdown will last for a minimum of two-weeks, and will be reassessed near the end of this period.
Grand Bahama is currently under a lockdown order that will expire on Friday, August 7.
Minnis said an assessment will be made on Friday to determine whether an extension is necessary.
The prime minister acknowledged the measure was given at short notice and on Emancipation Day, which marks the freedom of enslaved Africans in the British colonies.
However, he underscored the nature of the virus required “quick and aggressive” action.
Today, health officials reported 31 new confirmed cases, 22 in Grand Bahama and nine in New Providence.
The prime minister warned a further increase is expected before the current surge is brought under control.
He noted recent data shows direct links to travel to COVID-19 hotspots, adding most of the cases are individuals between the ages of 20 and 4o.
Minnis pleaded for those in quarantine to remain in isolation until the end of that period, and for the wider public to adhere to health protocols.
“There has been an exponential increase in the number of cases, an increase in hospitalizations, an increase in the demand for ICU beds, and sadly, an increase in the number of deaths,” he said.
“The more cases that present to health institutions the more services will be needed, and right now our bed capacity and Human Resources are being increasingly stretched.
“Health officials advise that a lockdown will allow for the repurposing of health facilities and addition of health resources to accommodate increased need for hospitalization and healthcare support.
They also advise that a lockdown will provide the opportunity for enhanced contact tracing, which will identify cases before they become very ill and prevent the spread of infection by the contacts.”
“The extension, relaxation, or cessation of the national lockdown will be determined by the cooperation of Bahamians and residents alike,” he said.
“The longer we take collectively to bring this second wave under control, the longer it will take to resume to a sense of normalcy. All of our actions collectively make a difference during this pandemic. We all have a personal and social responsibility in the fight against COVID-19.”
Minnis said careful consideration has been given to essential needs.
The following essential services will be allowed to operate on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 7am to 5pm for the general public, and on Saturday from 7am to 1pm for essential workers only.
Those services include: food stores, water depots, pharmacies from curbside and takeaway windows, hardware stores with curbside service, and gas stations for external services only.
All businesses are required to suspend operations, with staff working remotely where possible, with no curbside, takeaway dining or retail operations.
Minnis said the Secretary to the Cabinet and permanent secretaries will give instructions to Public Officers.
Commercial banks, international banks and trust companies will be allowed to have a skeleton team to support restricted hours of operation until 1pm on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.
According to Minnis, private medical facilities will be restricted to emergency medical care and immunization services only on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
All routine services are to be suspended, he said.
Caretakers, certified by the Ministry of Health, will be permitted to carry out home healthcare services; essential commercial ports will be permitted to carry out their respective services; and other caretakers will be permitted to maintain crops and animals
Families will still be able to hold funeral services at the graveside only with no more than five attendees, excluding officials and mortuary staff.
Churches will be permitted to have up to 10 people on site to facilitate live streaming and virtual services.
There is no change in the travel policy as outlined in the most recent emergency powers order.
“I know that a lockdown like this is the last thing we wanted as a country,” Minnis said.
“I know the nation is hurting, that our economy is in a terrible state, that many business people are struggling, that many workers are now unemployed, that families are scared.”
Minnis continued: “We are taking the required necessary measures to comprehensively battle COVID-19.”
“I promise you we can rebuild our economy and our society, but what we cannot do is bring people’s lives back. We can rebuild but we cannot recreate a new life.”
The prime minister said food distribution will only be limited to Monday, Wednesday and Friday by zone leaders in different areas of The Bahamas, including The Bahamas Feeding Network, Red Cross, One Eleuthera Foundation and IDEA Relief.
Minnis said 108,000 people are receiving food assistance from the National Food Distribution Taskforce, based on a household average of four people.