FIVE-DAY SHUTDOWN BEGINS

COVID-19 death count rises to 7

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A 51-year-old Grand Bahama woman is the country’s latest COVID-19 victim and as the number of deaths rises to seven, stronger lockdown measures designed to identify the “superspreaders” in the various communities are in effect across the nation.

Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis had announced Monday that as of 9:00 tonight, The Bahamas will be on a five-day shutdown from Wednesday, April 8 until Tuesday, April 14.

Since his announcement in the House of Assembly, the country recorded two more deaths, residents had taken advantage of the remaining two shopping days in preparation for the lockdown and a few more hotspots have been identified.

With one additional day, Thursday, allotted until 10:00 pm for essential workers, which includes health professionals, members of the Royal Bahamas Police and Defence Force, corrections officers, NIB, social services, environmental health and fire services, immigration, customs, waste disposal and sanitation companies, and water and electricity and electronic and print media, the stage is set for the longest lockdown in the country’s history.

Clearing banks and wholesale distributors were added to the list on Wednesday.

The prime minister attempted to allay the fears of residents and discourage panic buy, assuring there was ample food.

“There is sufficient food in the country for every individual. There is not a food shortage. That is not an issue,” he said.

He also stressed to the residents to adhere to the social and physical distancing.

“If you don’t, all the work that government has done to protect you can be lost overnight,” he warned.

Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis

The nation’s leader asked residents to wear a mask on Monday when they visit the grocery stores and run errands and Wednesday evening, government made it mandatory for residents wear a mask when they leave home.

In fact, under the new emergency orders, any business exempted from the lockdown is allowed to deny entry to any individual who does not wear a mask.

This, after losing seven Bahamians already to the dreaded COVID-19 pandemic, including a noted physician, Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands said yesterday at a virtual press conference in New Providence that the woman, who is recorded as the country’s latest case, died in Grand Bahama on April 6.

She was tested posthumously and the results came back today.

A 90-year-old New Providence man is recorded as the sixth; 72-year-old Dr. Judson Eneas, was the fifth; 80-year-old Clarence Bartlett, an entrepreneur, political activist and resident of Eight Mile Rock, Grand Bahama is the fourth; a 79-year-old man and 67-year-old woman and of New Providence are recorded as the third and second; and 57-year-old Kim Johnson-Rolle of Bimini was the first. She is the sister of Immigration Minister Elsworth Johnson.

As of today, there are 40 confirmed COVID-19 cases — 33 in New Providence; six in Grand Bahama; and one in Bimini. Of the four latest cases, three — two males and one female — are in New Providence and the deceased female from Grand Bahama. They range in age between 38 and 60.

A total of 394 people have been tested for COVID-19 in The Bahamas and five have been categorized as recovered.

Health officials have mapped out a number of hotspots in New Providence and Grand Bahama that are of major concern.

“We noticed that there is still significant contact spread throughout the islands of Grand Bahama and New Providence. Areas east of East Street in New Providence are still of concern. However, residents of the entire island should continue to take the necessary precautions,” Dr. Sands warned.

“In Grand Bahama, the areas south of West Sunset Highway, near Hunters, the

Immediate areas east of East Mall Drive and Lucaya and Williams Town are of concern.”

The deaths in The Bahamas underscore the seriousness of this pandemic, he stressed, noting that COVID-19 has killed more than 85,000 people worldwide.

Concerned about community spread, public health officials have recommended the five-day lockdown which, coincidentally, falls into Holy week and the Easter celebration.

In fact, health officials also revealed that earlier models project should the current trend of residents continue, The Bahamas could reach up to 90 COVID-19 positive cases by Easter Sunday.

But government is moving aggressively to curve that trend.

In that vein, following the end of the shutdown on Tuesday, the country will go on lockdown every weekend for the remainder of this month, beginning 9:00 pm on Fridays until 5:00 am on Mondays.

Prime Minister Minnis stressed that these measures are absolutely necessary to allow health experts to be able to identify the superspreaders of the virus, those who are asymptomatic and showing little or no signs of the virus and roaming among us, which can be detrimental to our society.

A superspreader can come in contact with many areas and has the potential to infect thousands of individuals, the prime minister cautioned.

“If we follow the news and listen, fewer people will die and fewer people will become sick,” he said. “Bear with us at this time, we understand the pain that you may be going through.”

Family and friends are confronting the death of loved ones and health experts say The Bahamas is still in the surge and has not yet reached the peak of the outbreak.

Prime Minister Minnis has acknowledged that one of the most unfortunate consequences of the emergency orders is the postponement of several funerals planned for this past weekend, however, government has to make some difficult decisions in order to protect lives.

Revealing the startling statistics that 47 percent of the population suffers from high blood pressure and 26 percent suffer from diabetes in The Bahamas, Dr. Sands urged residents to eat healthy and maintain good mental health during these times of physical lockdown.

Most especially, residents are asked to practice physical distancing, good hygiene and constantly wash your hands.

“We need to limit the number of COVID-19 virus patients in The Bahamas so that our healthcare system doesn’t collapse,” Dr. Sands said.

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