Prime Minister Hubert Minnis appears to be loosening COVID-19 restrictions after three weeks of 24-hour weekly lockdown and changes to the daily curfews.
In a rare appearance at a health conference, he appeared with his health adviser Dr Merceline Dahyl-Regis, implementing new and less restrictive measures, before taking questions from the press.
1. Minnis started on the toll of the virus on everyone and the country.
He highlighted that the pandemic is causing physical, spiritual, emotional, and economical stress. These stresses have been caused by lockdowns and closure of businesses as nearly 25,000 people are without jobs and rely on National Insurance for financial assistance.
2. Tourism hit hard
The tourism industry is the country’s number one industry and remains non-existent as countries around the world, battle with the rising of cases in their country. The United States, which supplies nearly 80% of our tourism market, is struggling as more than 8 million people have had the virus, more than 225,000 have died and thousands are reported each day.
“The major slowdown in global travel continues to devastate our tourism-based economy.”
But the country is expected to welcome tourists without the requirement of a 14-day quarantine, beginning November 1st.
3. Virus will worsen during colder months
Minnis said experts indicated that the next few months will be a “dark winter.” He said the northern hemisphere is likely heading into the worst period of the pandemic with fall already here and winter coming, colder countries face a very challenging winter.
Due to the cold, more people will be inside their homes. Scientists say the virus spreads easier indoors where there is poor ventilation.
4. Expect on-and-off measures
Minnis knows the complaints of some Bahamians that the lockdowns seem to be done halfway and restrictions may not be consistent, but he warned in his speech that we must “get used to the cycles of tightening and loosening restrictions.”
He said the decisions will depend on the lowering and rising of cases in the country.
“Let me be very clear, all indications are that the pandemic will be with us well into next year.
“When cases go up on a particular island, we will have to increase restrictions if necessary.
But if cases are low on other islands, they will remain open, with less restrictions.”
He reminded the public that restrictions are not punishments but simply a public health tool to promote more physical distancing, which can save lives.
5. New Measures
- Curfew changes take effect October 30th–8 p.m. to 5 a.m in New Providence, Abaco, and Grand Bahama.
- On Grand Bahama, weddings will now be limited to 10, not including the officiant.
- On Grand Bahama, funerals will now be limited to 10, at the graveside only, not including the officiant and mortuary workers.
- On Abaco, food stores may now open on Saturday from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.
- Following this assessment, a determination will be made on what specific measures may be needed for Eleuthera, Spanish Wells and Harbour Island.