• Beaches closed
• Airports closed
• Ports closed
• Six-feet distance mandatory
• Allowed out for 90 minutes a day exercise
• Only on roads for essential purchases or key workers
By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Tribune Chief Reporter
FACED with a matter of “life and death”, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis announced more stringent COVID-19 prevention measures, including a daily 24-hour curfew and the closure of airports and seaports beginning at 9am today through to March 31.
The new order stipulates that every person is to remain confined to their home, including their yard, to avoid contact outside of their immediate family. People should only leave their homes for essential trips – such as grocery shopping or for a doctor’s visit – and can only exercise outside for 90 minutes a day.
The confinement does not apply to essential workers – including the armed forces, Department of Corrections officers, the media and other workers previously defined in an emergency order issued last Thursday. These workers must produce personal identification cards if asked to do so by police.
Additionally all airports, including private and fixed-base operations, will close to incoming international flights carrying any visitor. All seaports also will be closed to regional and international seafaring and private boating; and no visitor is permitted to enter and disembark for any reason, including transmitting through The Bahamas. Exceptions to this portion of the order would require permission from the competent authority.
These restrictions do not apply to outgoing flights or ships, cargo flights or cargo ships, commercial courier flights, emergency medical flights or emergency flights approved by the Civil Aviation Authority.
The order states no person is allowed to hire or seek to travel on any mail boat, sailing inter island, except for transport of freight or inter island private commercial sea transport.
The first order, which came into effect last week, remains in place, the prime minister said.
His live televised national address last night followed a weekend where beachgoers packed beaches throughout New Providence, defying the government’s continued appeals for people to remain at home and practice social distancing. Three men in Grand Bahama were also charged in Magistrate’s Court yesterday for violating curfew orders.
Other closures include all public beaches, the Fish Fry at Arawak Cay and other occasional markets throughout the country along with Potter’s Cay Dock and every other dock in the country.
The docks, Dr Minnis said, will be closed to any public commercial activity. This includes the sale of fish, conch and any such catch.
Additionally, the prime minister issued regulations for supermarkets, which requires them to encourage social distancing inside and outside these stores.
These include ensuring that all customers and staff maintain physical distancing of no less than six feet in or outside their business; and determine the number of persons that may be permitted in the establishment at any one time by permitting one person for every 30 square feet of store space.
Within 24-hours from the order, owners are to place distance markers six feet apart, indicating where each customer must stand on a line at a check out point. The markers are to also be placed outside the stores where customers must stand while they wait to enter.
Dr Minnis went on to appeal to young people in the country to take the COVID-19 threat seriously, saying “you could die too” from the disease.
He said: “We are still learning about COVID-19, which is an enemy to (our) shores, an enemy to our lives and an enemy to our livelihoods. Like most health matters, prevention is one of our most important strategies.
“We must limit and prevent a greater spread of this virus. While the emergency orders are difficult for some, it is better to do what we need to do now, rather than paying a greater and heavier price later. As a small island nation we cannot afford to lose 800 individuals on any one given day,” he said, referring to the high casualty toll in Italy.
“Therefore it is essential that we adhere to the measures that begin tomorrow. Too many Bahamians have not taken this threat seriously enough. Many people still don’t understand the toll this virus is taking on other countries. To stop COVID-19 from spreading, each of us is a soldier or warrior in this battle.
“Our personal and collective behaviour is the best way to fight this threat. Do not invite people over to your homes to socialise. Do not hang out with friends. Do not have house parties. If you do not heed the warnings, you could catch this virus. It could kill you.
“You could spread it to your friends and families and it could kill them. By listening to our advice you will save your life and that of your friends and that of your family.
“I want to speak directly and clearly to every young Bahamian citizen out there,” Dr Minnis said. “You are not immune to this virus. You are made of flesh and blood. None of us is invincible. Though COVID-19 is especially dangerous to older people, younger people have also died in other countries. You could die too or become very sick, especially if you have certain underlying health challenges.”
The virus has challenged other countries around the world, many more developed than this nation. Dr Minnis said Bahamians must learn from these examples.
“The scenes in other countries, including rich, developed countries, are frightening.
In some cases the military has been called in to move the large number of dead to funeral homes for cremation.
People are dying in medical facilities without friends or family around because they are in isolation to prevent the spread of this virus.
“These are possible grave and stark realities we may face here if Bahamians do not listen to the advice given by the government and public health officials.
“Everyone is at risk if we have a surge of cases that overwhelms our health system. We are seeing countries struggle with such surges.
“Again, I plead with you: stay at home,” he also said. “Follow what public health officials say to you.
Encourage your family and friends to do the same. If we are disciplined and careful we can overcome this immense crisis.”
He encouraged the use of electronic means of keeping in touch with relatives who will be separated from families due to the 24-hour curfew, adding that people should increase interacting with relatives in their households as the lockdown continues.
As for the government’s assistance to the most vulnerable in the country and people facing possible unemployment and other challenges, he said the National Insurance Board was encouraged to engage with hotel owners about advancing NIB unemployment benefits.
This would reduce the number of people having to physically go to NIB to collect payments. Hotel companies will be reimbursed by the government, he said.
Dr Minnis added that the government will immediately enter into discussions with the Central Bank and the banking sector as to how they may assist Bahamians affected by COVID-19.