Prime Minister Phillip “Brave” Davis, Free National Movement Chairman Dr Duane Sands and president of the Bahamas Hotel Catering and Allied Workers Union Darrin Woods.
By LEANDRA ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
BEGINNING October 1, people will no longer be required to wear a mask in the country except for those accessing healthcare facilities, visiting senior care homes or in an indoor classroom setting.
Prime Minister Phillip “Brave” Davis announced further relaxations to the country’s mask mandate on his Twitter account yesterday.
He said adjustments to the mask mandate were recommended by the advisory committee at the Ministry of Health and Wellness yesterday.
While mask wearing is not currently required in outdoor settings, it is still largely required indoors. However, once the new policy takes effect, mask wearing will not be required in most settings.
In a statement released yesterday, the Ministry of Health explained the cases where mask wearing will still be required.
They include people accessing a health care facility for any reason, including workers, patients, visitors and vendors or any non-resident worker of a long-term care residential facility.
Mask wearing is also required “in any indoor classroom setting in an educational institution, except where Rule 27 (20 of the Health Services Rules (COVID) Prevention and Management of Community Spread 2021)” applies.
Despite the upcoming change in policy, officials said some Bahamians might still choose to wear masks in crowded settings and added that their decision to do so should be respected.
The mask mandates are among the few restrictive measures still being enforced in the country.
Plans to further relax the country’s mask measures were hailed by many yesterday, especially those in the tourism sector who have long been calling for an end to the restriction.
One of them was Darrin Woods, president of the Bahamas Hotel Catering and Allied Workers Union, who said the move will likely boost tourism numbers and in turn, aid the nation’s economic recovery
“It sends a positive message that as things begin to decline and I think the prime minister would have said this - as things begin to decline and we are able to hold our numbers, we will see more relaxation of some of the COVID-19 protocols coming into play,” he said.
“I don’t think we will ever get away from the sanitisation, washing of the hands and even in your mind, psyche, people will still be social distancing so it’s a welcome to us because we believe that the time has come now.”
For his part, Free National Movement Chairman Dr Duane Sands said while the policy change was not an “unreasonable step,” it also didn’t mean that the virus was behind us and further reminded Bahamians to be on guard.
“We want to be sure that lifting the mask mandate doesn’t mean that COVID has gone away and certainly, we would encourage people who feel that they would benefit from the protections of a masks to continue to do so and to have parents who are concerned about their children to do so,” he told The Tribune.
Still he said the party would not oppose further relaxations of the health protocol.
The decision to further relax the national mask mandate comes as the nation continues to record low COVID-19 cases.
The Bahamas has recorded more than 37,000 cases of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic.
However, only 115 virus cases were said to be still active at last report.