Current measures not achieving the desired results for NP and Abaco
NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis yesterday hinted that increased restrictions may be on the horizon for New Providence following strategy talks with health consultants this week.
During a national address, Minnis urged residents in New Providence to recommit to following the COVID-19 guidelines fully, noting recent data that indicates one in every 100 Nassauvians is infected with the virus.
The prime minister pointed to reports and videos of large Junkanoo rush-outs, socializing and large gatherings, adding it was clear that many people have let their guard down and are not taking the global pandemic seriously.
He said the balancing of the health, economic and social needs of the country is sometimes an “hourly, daily and weekly effort”.
“The major problem we face is on New Providence, our most populated island, where cases remain at an elevated level,” Minnis said.
“The elevated New Providence numbers mirror the current challenge countries face worldwide managing the virus.”
The prime minister noted most countries are seeing a “tremendous increase” in infections that require different strategies for various regions.
“Some countries have gone back to targeted lockdowns or more restrictive curfews and other measures needed to address the high number of infections, hospitalizations and, sadly, deaths,” he said.
“Lockdowns are hard on family life; they’re hard on businesses and individual’s finances; they’re hard on people’s mental health.
“When virus cases increase, governments first try to utilize other restrictive measures.
“But, if cases rise exponentially and virus spread is out of control, governments often have no choice but to order a lockdown to save lives.”
Minnis said lockdowns have become the international standard response, adding targeted and sustained measures in Bimini and Grand Bahama proved essential in reducing spread.
He noted the increase in infections is taking place as countries seek to reopen to restore economic viability, and are in some cases a result of complacency in following health guidelines.
Minnis noted although the public and the wider world are tired of the pandemic, “the virus is nowhere near exhausted”.
Health officials confirmed an additional 77 cases of COVID-19 and two deaths that are being investigated on Saturday.
Of the new cases, 70 in New Providence, six in Grand Bahama, and one in Eleuthera.
A total of 18 deaths are being investigated.
Total cases now stand at 4,409.
Minnis said he met with the Pan-American Health Organization and World Health Organization representative to the Bahamas, Dr Esther de Gourville, and the Government’s Health Consultant Dr Merceline Dahl-Regis on Saturday.
De Gourville is slated to meet with executive members of the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers’ Confederation, members of the National COVID-19 Coordinating Committee, and other key stakeholders to discuss specific strategies and the way forward over the next two days.
Minnis said de Gourville will also meet with the Cabinet on Tuesday, adding the Leader of the Opposition Philip Davis and his team have been invited.
Following those meetings, the prime minister said he will brief the nation on their recommendations, “especially on the way forward for New Providence and Abaco”.
He continued: “During the meeting with Dr. de Gourville and Dr. Dahl-Regis, it was stressed that success in addressing community spread depends on the public’s behavior and adherence to COVID-19 preventative measures.
“We also know, as was noted by the Minister of Health at his press conference this past Friday, that the workplace is a hot spot for COVID-19.
“I once again ask employers and employees to rigorously follow and to adhere to the workplace guidelines agreed by health officials, the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers’ Confederation and other entities.”
Minnis said: “With the numbers remaining high in New Providence it is important for us to recommit to following the COVID-19 guidelines fully.
“We must recommit on New Providence to full compliance with the rules because the current elevated number of cases is straining our hospital and health care systems.”
He continued: “A simple message we gave earlier in the pandemic is as relevant today as it was when we first gave it: If you don’t have to be out, stay at home.
“When you are out be physically distant and wear your masks properly. That means the mask should stay over your nose and mouth at all times.
“A person of any age could have this virus. You must not let your guards down because of how close people are to you.
Minnis maintained COVID-19 data indicated the main point of virus transmission is in the home.
He said: “Knowing someone or being emotionally close to them will not keep you safe from the virus.
“Our best and most effective measure to control the spread of COVID-19 is our individual and collective behavior and responsibility. National unity and the spirit of “we” are essential in combatting COVID-19.”
“But when we do not act together, this deadly virus sees an opportunity to exploit us and do damage to our individual and common good.
He added: “When you fail to wear a mask or abide by other health measures, the virus may seize on this opportunity to harm you and through you, do harm to others.”