Food stores to open tomorrow until further notice
NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis has announced a turnaround of the full lockdown imposed in New Providence, allowing food stores and other essential services to open tomorrow.
He said the reversal was due to public feedback and the development of a weather system that could potentially impact the country by the weekend.
It follows bitter protests earlier today among dozens of people who gathered near Windsor Park on East Street to march onto Bay Street in protest of the seven-day lockdown.
Scores of people were detained, leading to an emotive standoff between officers and residents of the area.
“Starting tomorrow, Wednesday 19 August, grocery stores, pharmacies, water depots, gas stations and hardware stores will be allowed to open from 6am to 9pm, until further notice,” Minnis said.
“Food wholesalers and manufacturers will also be allowed to operate during this period.
“The National Insurance Board will resume cheque distributions on Wednesday 19 August at the National Stadium.
Minnis said he will provide further details on adjustments to the New Providence lockdown when he addressed the nation later in the week.
“My first priority is always to protect the health and safety of every Bahamian,” he continued.
“However, after I spoke Monday night Bahamians from all walks of life raised concerns with me.
“From these discussions two things are clear: There is broad understanding of the need to lock down New Providence in order to control and slow the spread of COVID-19; however, it is also clear that families and businesses need more time to prepare.
“I hear you. I understand you and know that in many cases we must make adjustments in the short-term to strengthen in the long run.
“Earlier today the Cabinet was briefed by officials of the Department of Meteorology and the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) who are closely monitoring a weather system which on its current path may affect The Bahamas by Sunday.
“Given the feedback from community stakeholders and the threat of a weather system that is developing, we are making adjustments to the New Providence lockdown.
“This is to allow residents who were unable to secure sufficient food, medicine and water to access essential items, and to make the necessary preparations as we monitor the weather system.”
Earlier today, a group of more than a dozen intended protestors sat in front of Super Value on East Street and decried the decision to implement a complete lockdown in New Providence, claiming residents, particularly the vulnerable, have been unable to prepare to survive the lockdown period.
Operation Sovereign Bahamas organized the event.
A portion of the protest was streamed live on Facebook by entertainer Demetrius Smith.
As officer urged residents to return home and for the protestors to disperse, several of them said they rather be arrested than to give up their cause.
Others, some of whom were residents of the area, told officers they had nothing to lose and would accept being arrested over suffering at home, as at least meals would be offered in the Department of Correctional Services.
When contacted, Commissioner of Police Paul Rolle said: “The Royal Bahamas Police Force wishes to ask persons to take the coronavirus seriously as the intent of the emergency orders is to prevent the further spread of the virus and to save lives.”
He also advised the protestors did not have or seek permission to do so.
Officers handcuffed and escorted nearly two dozen people into awaiting buses as of 10am.
Dwight Bullard, a father on three, said he had no time to prepare.
“The prime minister has to give us time to prepare for this thing my brother,” he told Eyewitness News while holding his infant son in his arms.
“If you even have money, you still can’t spend it because ain’t nothing open.
“I may could take this, but they (his children) can’t take this and they’re innocent.
“…They have to remove this lockdown and stop talking foolishness.”
Asked how he will get through the period, Bullard said: “I don’t know my brother. I don’t really know. All I can do is hope and pray that the Lord can find a way because these people doing [expletive].”
Many others made a similar plea and called on Bahamians to come out and support them and those who do not have a voice.
In a statement, Minnis said: “I will provide additional details as it relates to the lockdown for New Providence when I address the nation later this week. NEMA is expected to brief the public on the weather system on Wednesday.
“Your best interests guide my decisions. These are difficult times for our country.
“As you shop for essential items and make preparations, please abide by the public health guidelines. Stay physically distant. Wear your masks. Wash or sanitize your hands regularly.”
He added: “We will beat this second wave by working together. And, as your prime minister, I will always listen and make decisions taking your needs, thoughts and feedback into consideration.”
Two disturbances in the Atlantic have a 30 percent and 80 percent chance respectively of developing into cyclones in the next 48 hours.