Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis speaks on Sunday.
By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
PRIME Minister Dr Hubert Minnis announced that people who fail to wear masks in public will be fined $200 or face one month imprisonment as the Royal Bahamas Police Force forms a new COVID-19 enforcement unit to ensure compliance with his emergency orders.
During a national address yesterday, he also warned beaches, which reopen in New Providence, Paradise Island, Grand Bahama and Bimini today, will be immediately closed if there are mass gatherings. Groups of more than five on public beaches are prohibited, he said.
“Masks are to be worn by all persons, Bahamians, residents and visitors, entering and exiting our beaches,” he said. “Please be reminded, gatherings on the beaches of more than five persons are strictly prohibited. This will result in a fine under the emergency orders. Our enforcement teams will be monitoring this risk closely. Mass gatherings may result in the immediate closure of the respective beach. Additionally, depending on the results of the beaches’ monitoring during this upcoming week, we will make a determination on whether the beaches will remain opened or closed on the Independence holiday weekend. These measures are for the ongoing protection and safety of Bahamians and residents.”
Gyms and outdoor group exercises will be allowed to resume on Wednesday. Dr Minnis said masks will not be required during exercise.
“However, persons must wear their masks up to the point that they are about to begin exercising and immediately after they have completed their exercise routines. Additionally, they must have their masks visibly and easily identifiable on their person during their exercise routines,” he said.
It is an offence for businesses to allow people entry to their establishments without a mask. The fines include $500 for the first offence and $1,000 for the second offence. For a third offence, the businesses could be temporarily closed or required to pay more fines.
Dr Minnis reiterated the importance of observing social distancing guidelines.
“This virus spreads human to human through close contact when an infected person spews respiratory droplets,” he said. “Let me say that in more direct words: If you stand close to someone without a mask covering your mouth and nose, and they have no mask on, they could expel the virus as they talk to you. By wearing a proper face covering we protect one another. It is a sign that we are our brother’s and sister’s keepers. Many people who spread this virus are asymptomatic.
“This means they look healthy and do not have symptoms. They are not coughing or sneezing. They do not have fevers. But they may be shedding the virus and cause other people to get sick. If you are in close contact with asymptomatic people and they don’t have on a mask or face covering, and nor do you, you could catch the virus from them.
“We must wear our masks and face covering properly. Your mask is supposed to cover your nose and mouth. It is supposed to cover your nose and mouth for the entire time you are out. It is unacceptable for you to have your mask over your mouth and not your nose. It is even more unacceptable for you to have your mask just over your chin. I have seen Bahamians openly gather in groups talking and hanging out without their masks once they get out of stores and businesses.
“We all have to do better than this.”