A long line outside of Super Value in Winton on Monday. Photo: Shawn Hanna/Tribune staff
By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Senior Reporter
ANOTHER nationwide lockdown will begin at 9pm on Wednesday and last until 5am next Tuesday as the country fights the novel coronavirus, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis announced in the House of Assembly yesterday.
“We will experience five days of pain, but a lifetime of resolution,” he said.
He said such strong measures are needed because some people did not listen to warnings to take the COVID-19 threat seriously. Health officials, he said, need time to identify super-spreaders of the virus who may be asymptomatic. He also warned the increase in unemployment as a result of economic fallout from the disease will be “tremendous and greater than most of us have seen in our lifetime.”
Dr Minnis, pictured, acknowledged the five-day lockdown could be especially painful for poor people who may not have a stock of food supplies.
“Growing up in the inner city,” he said, “our grocery shopping pattern was somewhat different from the average person. One day (we would) go to the supermarket and buy one onion and one tomato, may also buy one can of corned beef and a bag of rice. That might last for a day. The following day we may return and buy one onion, a loaf of Purity bread, a pound or two of sausage and one can of tomato paste. That would last one day again. The point I’m driving here is it’s very difficult for the poor individual who is accustomed to shopping just one day at a time and (has) no form of storage or savings. (However) this is essential because there is what we call a ‘super-spreader’.
“The lockdown means you may not leave the confines of your property for any reason, unless there is an emergency or unless you are working in an entity which will be specifically named, or identified by the function being performed, in the lockdown order.”
Dr Minnis said the 24-hour curfew with exemptions for some essential services and activities will resume on April 14 and continue for the remainder of April.
However, the complete shutdown will happen every weekend for the rest of this month.
Exempted groups from the complete lockdown include essential workers at hospitals, the Royal Bahamas Police Force, the Royal Bahamas Defence Force, the media, security services, hotels with guests, emergency units of core publicly and privately owned public utilities that provide electricity, water and telecommunication services and a “strictly limited number of excepted undertakings, such as international import/export trade,” he said.
“As Prime Minister and as a medical doctor, it is my duty to do what is necessary to protect our people. My mind is clear,” he said. “I am focused on what must be done. The best medicine to stop this virus is physical distancing. We must stay apart as much as possible to prevent the spread of this coronavirus and more deaths. That is why I began the curfew and lockdown measures. They are essential to save lives.
“We have watched on the news the consequences around the world of waiting too long to act aggressively. Some countries and jurisdictions that did not act fast enough are experiencing hundreds of deaths per day. We are learning from what happened in those places and applying the lessons to The Bahamas.
“I assure the country that our best minds in public health are working hard behind the scenes to keep Bahamians and residents safe.
“The Bahamas does not have the resources of larger countries. We do not have their production capacity to create drugs and equipment to fight the virus.
“In The Bahamas we must put our focus and our efforts on prevention. That is why we instituted the curfews, shutdowns and lockdown. But for this to work, all of us must do our part. We need our citizens and residents and visitors to comply and to follow the rules. Compliance will help to determine how many deaths there are. We all have it in our hands to save lives. If we follow the rules and listen, if we stay at home, fewer people will die and will get sick. If we are slack, if we do not listen, if some sneak out and break the rules, more people may die.”
Dr Minnis said his government will take “unprecedented” action to help the poor, the vulnerable and those who are no longer employed,” though he did not outline new measures.
He said the government will help small, medium and larger businesses and will aggressively stimulate the economy.
Dr Minnis later said supermarkets will remain open on Thursday from 6am-11am for healthcare workers, police and defence force officers only.