By TANEKA THOMPSON
Tribune News Editor
THE Office of the Prime Minister announced the ease of lockdown restrictions for Grand Bahama and several Family Islands yesterday, allowing the resumption of indoor church services, curbside business activity and outdoor dining.
These islands can also open schools for instruction, providing social distancing and sanitisation takes place.
The measures took effect from 5am and cover Grand Bahama, Andros, Crooked Island, Acklins, Eleuthera, Cat Island, Exuma, Bimini, the Berry Islands, Mayaguana, Inagua and Abaco.
While a 10pm to 5am daily curfew is in place on those islands, the following businesses are permitted to operate daily from 6am to 9pm: food stores, pharmacies, gas stations, water depots, hardware stores and laundromats.
From Monday through Friday, 9am to 5pm, the following can operate: commercial banks, credit unions and money transfer businesses; financial institutions with essential staff; law firms for criminal and urgent civil matters; retail bakeries from 7am to 5pm; and “other daily operations”.
The notice from OPM also says wholesalers and manufacturers may operate while other businesses that can provide curbside, online or delivery services can operate, including retail and gaming houses.
“Restaurants can open with outdoor dining, takeout, delivery and drive-through services, except for fish fry restaurants,” OPM said. “Hotels with guests can operate with current restrictions of... no gaming, gyms and spas.”
Churches can also now resume indoor services on those islands, once they follow the Bahamas Christian Council’s COVID-19 guidelines. Churches can also continue to have office hours from 9am to 1pm. Daily private prayer may continue.
Weddings and funerals are permitted with a maximum of 10 people, excluding the officiant and mortuary staff.
Government offices will be open with essential staff as directed by the relevant permanent secretaries, while those who can work from home will be advised to do so.
Gatherings of more than 20 people in homes will be prohibited.
Attending the beaches and parks on these islands is permitted 5am to 9pm daily, except for Grand Bahama which will be limited to 5am to 9am.
“Schools can open for academic instruction with physical distancing and sanitisation,” the OPM statement said. “For those homeschooling, a maximum of five students are permitted in programmes. Requests for permission to instruct more than five students are to be made to the Ministry of Education.”
Construction is permitted, along with commercial fishing, crabbing and subsistence fishing.
“These provisions allow for commercial activity and opening up, while also maintaining provisions to preserve public health,” OPM’s statement added.
Also effective from today at 5am, the islands of Chub Cay, Long Cay, Long Island, Rum Cay, Ragged Island and Spanish Wells will continue to have no curfew.
San Salvador and Harbour Island have also been moved to this category of islands. “Commercial activities are allowed with physical distancing and sanitisation protocols,” OPM said of this category.
“Social gatherings should be limited to no more than 20 people; physical distancing protocols for church services, funerals and weddings are to be followed; and beaches and parks are open.”
Grand Bahama had previously been under a lockdown for nearly five weeks after rising cases on that island. During a Zoom meeting on Saturday, many Grand Bahama business owners expressed frustration over not being able to operate and some threatened to protest if their concerns were not addressed.