By FARRAH JOHNSON
Tribune Staff Reporter
PRIME Minister Dr Hubert Minnis implemented a new daily curfew for Grand Bahama and banned international and domestic travel to and from the island, following a resurgence of COVID-19 cases there.
During his national address yesterday, Dr Minnis said Grand Bahama has recorded 31 new cases of COVID-19 over the last two weeks. He said he believed this increase coincided with the resumption of international flights and sea transport, adding that “surveillance teams have traced many of the cases to Bahamians returning to The Bahamas.” While outlining the stipulations for the island, he said more restrictive measures may be introduced, including a lockdown this Friday, if efforts to stem the rise in cases are unsuccessful.
Starting today, a 7pm to 5am daily curfew will be implemented in Grand Bahama, and effective immediately, all public and private beaches and parks on the island will be closed.
On Wednesday, he added, the island’s borders will be closed to all incoming and outgoing flights and sea vessels. Only emergency transportation and travel to transport essential goods and services are exempt. Yesterday, Dr Minnis also announced that ferry boat operations between East End, Grand Bahama and Crown Haven, Abaco will not be allowed, effective today.
He said health officials in Grand Bahama have also recommended “stricter enforcement of social distancing and mask wearing, with fines for non-compliance.”
“To address the potential for community spread, indoor dining will be closed effective (today),” he stated. “Outdoor dining, takeaway and curbside delivery will be permitted. Bars remain closed. All fish fry’s inclusive of, but not limited to Eight Mile Rock, Smith’s Point, West End and Williams Town, will be closed effective (today).”
Dr Minnis said “congregant activities and gatherings, inclusive of religious services, weddings, funerals and sporting activities will not be allowed” effective today. However, he said students will still be allowed to sit their national examinations.
He added: “Grand Bahama has experienced an increase of 31 new cases over the past two weeks. Health officials are closely monitoring this situation. If efforts to decrease the number of cases are unsuccessful, other restrictive measures may be recommended, including a lockdown beginning Friday, July 24.”
Dr Minnis said a seven-member team from the Ministry of Health travelled to Grand Bahama on Saturday to “enhance the capacity” of health officials on the island in terms of early identification.
He said the team is “assisting with identification and testing and mapping of contacts for characterisation of the epidemiological situation,” following the increase of COVID-cases on the island.
Dr Minnis said the health team is made up of three physicians, one microbiologist and three nurses. Their assistance, he said, will include public education sessions, data gathering exercises, case investigations, contact tracing as well as sample collection.
“I wish to make a strong plea to the residents of Grand Bahama to cooperate with the health measures,” Dr Minnis urged.
“If we address the current increase in confirmed cases as quickly as possible, Grand Bahama can return to a greater sense of normalcy as soon as possible. Let us work together to get Grand Bahama back up and running as quickly as possible. I ask Grand Bahamians to work in a spirit of unity in the battle against COVID-19.”