PRIME Minister Dr Hubert Minnis. (File photo)
By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Senior Reporter
PRIME Minister Dr Hubert Minnis said his emergency powers will be extended into July as the country enters Phase Five of his reopening plan.
During his budget communication in the House of Assembly yesterday, Dr Minnis also announced the daily curfew has been shortened by one hour –– it will now be in effect from 10pm to 5am each day, with businesses allowed to operate until 8pm.
He said starting July 1, gyms, spas and outdoor group exercise will be permitted while public parks and beaches on New Providence, Paradise Island, Grand Bahama and Bimini will reopen on June 29. “Gatherings greater than five people are prohibited,” he added with regard to those spaces.
On July 1, taxi services will be allowed to resume while public and private bus services will be permitted to operate with 50 percent occupancy.
Dr Minnis said while PCR COVID-19 negative tests will be required for people entering the country, an exception will be made for short-term travel periods of 72 hours or less involving Bahamians and residents, though such people may have be quarantined for 14 days on arrival as determined by the Ministry of Health.
“Indoor eating at restaurants will be allowed with physical distancing required, sanitisation, and mask wearing by all staff at all times, and patrons when entering and exiting the establishment,” Dr Minnis said. “Maximum seating will be based on 50 percent occupancy, meaning 30 square feet per person. Vendors at Arawak Cay may continue outdoor dining, but are not permitted for indoor dining at this time.”
Dr Minnis said funeral services or weddings in churches or religious facilities can be held in accordance with physical distancing protocols for Saturday and Sunday services while graveside services are still limited to 30 people.
He said establishments, taxi and bus owners will be held response for letting people in without masks and for ensuring that physical distancing takes place.
If the requirements are not followed, Dr Minnis said the owner will face a fine or possible prison time.
“A second violation will lead to a second fine at a higher quantum. A third violation will lead to a temporary closing of the facility until health officials can be satisfied that the continued operations of the establishment would not pose a health risk to the community,” he said.
Emphasising the importance of masks, Dr Minnis said: “The COVID-19 pandemic is not over. There is no vaccine as yet. The wearing of facial masks is absolutely necessity and has significantly helped to reduce the spread of the virus at home and around the world. We must all do our part and be personally responsible by wearing our masks, maintaining physical distance and washing and sanitising our hands thoroughly and often.”
Dr Minnis also blasted official opposition leader Philip “Brave” Davis, accusing him of poor judgement when he said in March the COVID-19 restrictions applied at the time were an “overreach”.
“The leader of the opposition was dead wrong,” Dr Minnis said. “My government’s decision to act decisively at the time was taken after consultation with health officials. We acted quickly because we saw what was happening in the world and we wanted to get ahead of the deadly virus as quickly as possible.”
In response, Mr Davis said Dr Minnis told an incomplete story. He said the prime minister agreed with his assessment when the pair later met.