By LEANDRA ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis announced on Thursday that the country has officially began the transition to stage four of the government’s reopening plan, allowing for restaurants to open under certain guidelines and a further relaxation of restrictions on the national curfew.
Noting that the success of the country’s phased re-opening plan depends on resident’s adherence to the social distancing guidelines, Dr Minnis said starting next weekend, the weekend lockdown measure will be lifted for the entire country, with the 9pm to 5am curfew still set to remain in place.
Public parks and beaches, he added, will also be allowed to open on other remaining islands with no COVID-19 cases, starting Monday. This includes Eleuthera, Harbour Island, Spanish Wells, Exuma and San Salvador.
However, as for New Providence, Paradise Island, Grand Bahama and Bimini, Dr Minnis said the closure of public parks and beaches will still remain in effect.
This, according to the prime minister, is part of the government’s efforts to gradually re-open the economy in a safe and sustainable manner.
Dr Minnis also announced a further relaxation of hours for already exempted businesses and services in the country, saying starting Monday, all professional services and commercial activity will now be able to resume regular operating hours.
However, he said businesses must be closed by 7pm daily.
“This does not include restaurants, bars, hair salons, barbers, cinemas, gyms and cultural and entertainment facilities, which are to remain closed,” he noted during Thursday’s press conference at the Office of the Prime Minister.
Exercise will also be permitted between 5am to 9pm beyond one’s immediate neighbourhood daily, but group exercises and sporting activities will still not be allowed.
The Prime Minister added: “Places of worship may resume regular office hours. Fishing is allowed with more than two people in a vessel. Physical distancing and proper sanitization and hygiene measures are required. Masks should be worn.”
During Thursday’s address, Dr Minnis also relaxed restrictions on more businesses in the country, allowing restaurants and hair salons to resume operations starting June 15th but under highly restrictive conditions.
This comes months after the government ordered the closure of all non-essential businesses and the Fish Fry at Arawak Cay and the stalls at Potter’s Cay in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19.
In recent weeks, Arawak Cay and Potter’s Cay vendors have been calling for the government to allow them re-open their businesses, noting it as “unfair” that certain businesses are allowed to operate, Starting Monday, while their establishments remain closed.
But, starting June 15, Dr Minnis said restaurants will be allowed to re-open and cater to the general public once again.
However, he warned to restaurant operators: “There will be no indoor seating allowed at this point. This includes restaurants at the Arawak Cay Fish Fry, and Potter’s Cay Dock. All restaurants must follow industry COVID-19 protocols and guidelines. Owners must ensure proper physical distancing.”
Dr Minnis also reminded that road side vendors will not be allowed to operate on the streets during this time, noting the move as essential in the country’s fight against the COVID-19 fight.
“In order to be restored, special locations will be provided. Individuals must be certified. They must receive food handlers’ certificate and they must also be certified by a sanitisation,” he said.
Meanwhile, as it relates to the re-opening of hair salons and barbershops, the prime minister said: “Hair salons and barbershops may resume operations following certification by the Ministry of Health.”
He added: “All salons, spas and parlors wishing to open should produce a current business license, engage in deep cleaning of their salon and put procedures in place to maintain physical distancing, hand washing and sanitizing, and mask wearing to protect themselves and their clients.”
Dr Minnis said in partnership with the Ministry of Health, all beauty professionals will be required to attend “an Infection Prevention and Control” course on new health protocols before returning to work.
In his address on Thursday, Dr Minnis also gave an update concerning the national BJC and BGCSE dates, saying the examinations will be begin on July 13.
More information, he said, will be provided by Education Minister Jeff Lloyd in the House of Assembly during the budget debate next week.