GB COVID-19 Updates and PM Address on Sunday, July 19th, 2020
By Abria Cooper
Following the recent spike in the national number of COVID-19 cases in the country Prime Minister of the Bahamas, the Hon. Dr. Hubert Minnis implored Grand Bahama residents to adhere to new safety measures including a two-week lockdown of Grand Bahama beginning Thursday, July 23rd at 7pm until Friday, August 7 at 5am.
The Prime Minister made an address on Tuesday, July 21st, 2020 where he provided updates on the current state of affairs in the country.
Grand Bahama has recorded 51 COVID-19 cases in less than two weeks. Prior to July 8, the island had not seen a case since May 5.
He announced that effective 6 pm Tuesday (July 21) all domestic flights in and out of Grand Bahama will cease.
The prime minister says there are adequate supplies of food and there is no need for Grand Bahamians to crowd food stores. Food vouchers will be distributed to 14,000 residents.
Gas stations will be permitted to operate Monday – Friday 7 am to 5pm.
Pharmacies, water depots and gas stations will be permitted to operate Monday – Friday 7am to 1pm
GB Humane Society and waste disposal and sanitation companies will be permitted to operate Monday – Friday 7am to 1pm
Food stores, pharmacies, gas stations and water depots may operate on Saturdays 7am to 1pm for essential workers only.
Religious services may be held virtually only. Funerals may be held at gravesite only with a maximum of 10 people, including the officiate.
During Saturdays and Sundays, a complete lockdown will be in place. Residents are only permitted to leave if they are essential workers or facing an emergency.
As of Monday, July 20th, 2020 the Ministry of Health the Ministry of Health confirmed that there are twenty-one (21) additional confirmed cases of COVID-19. This brings the total number of confirmed cases to one hundred seventy-four (174).
There have been one hundred and one (101) confirmed cases of COVID-19 in New Providence, fifty-nine (59) confirmed cases in Grand Bahama, thirteen (13) confirmed cases in Bimini, and one (1) confirmed case in Cat Cay.
The public is advised that Case #154 is a resident of New Providence and Cases #155 – #174 are residents of Grand Bahama. Further details of the twenty-one (21) additional cases were unable to be confirmed at the time of the release of this report.
Investigations are ongoing, and a complete update of details will be published at a later date. Health officials continue to follow the condition of the other current COVID-19 positive cases.
The Prime Minister also provided vital updates during a press conference on Sunday, July 19th, 2020 on the current state of affairs in the country in response to the sudden rise on COVID-19 cases over the past few weeks.
On Sunday (July 19) it was reported that Grand Bahama had experienced an increase of 31 new cases over the past two weeks.
Health officials are closely monitoring this situation. If efforts to decrease the number of cases are unsuccessful, other restrictive measures may be recommended, including a lockdown beginning Friday July 24th, 2020.
Early identification of contacts is essential for mitigation and control of spread.
To enhance the capacity of health officials on the island in this regard, a seven-member team from the Ministry of Health arrived on Grand Bahama, Saturday July 18th, 2020.
This team is assisting with identification, testing and mapping of contacts for characterization of the epidemiological situation following the significant increase in the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases on that island.
The health team is made up of three physicians, one microbiologist and three nurses who will provide public health and clinical support to the Grand Bahama team.
The team’s assistance will include public education sessions, data gathering exercises, case investigations, contact tracing as well as sample collection.
“I wish to make a strong plea to the residents of Grand Bahama to cooperate with the health measures,” he said.
He added that if we address the current increase in confirmed cases as quickly as possible, Grand Bahama can return to a greater sense of normalcy as soon as possible.
“Let us work together to get Grand Bahama back up and running as quickly as possible. I ask Grand Bahamians to work in a spirit of unity in the battle against COVID-1,” he said.
On Grand Bahama new curfew was implemented starting Monday, July 20th, 2020 from 7 p.m. to 5 a.m.
All public and private beaches and parks will be closed as of 5 a.m. Monday (July 20).
International and domestic borders will be closed to all incoming and outgoing air and sea vessels effective midnight Wednesday (July 22).
There will be stricter enforcement of social distancing and mask wearing. Indoor dining will be closed. Outdoor dining and curb side will be permitted.
Bars will remain closed. All fish fry operations will be closed effective tomorrow. No sporting activities allowed.
“All congregant activities and gatherings, inclusive of religious services, weddings and funerals and sporting activities will not be allowed, effective Monday 20 July 2020,” he said.
This does not include students taking national examinations.
The PM also announced that International commercial flights and vessels will not be permitted from anywhere except Canada, UK and Europe as of midnight Wednesday, July 22nd, 2020.
As of Sunday, July 19th, 2020 the current Bahamas Ministry of Health has confirmed 15 new cases of COVID-19. The total number of cases is now at 153.
According to the Surveillance Unit there have been 49 new cases since our borders fully opened on July 1st. Thirty-one of those new cases were recorded on the island of Grand Bahama.
PM Minnis noted that the country’s “battle” with COVID-19 will last for a long time.
“We are in a marathon not a sprint. This is a marathon demanding discipline, endurance, demanding resilience and requiring determination. This is a marathon requiring agility, a quick change of course when necessary and decisive action,” he said.
He added that like other nations that responded well at the outset of the pandemic, The Bahamas is working through the same balancing act.
“We are trying to get Bahamians back to work and to promote economic activity, while also limiting the spread of the virus. We are trying to open parts of our economy and our society while promoting and requiring health measures to protect lives,” he said.
Minnis stated that the Bahamas is reviewing and being guided by what, in this moment in history, appears to be the most effective practices from around the world.
“You have seen from media reports that quite a few places, including countries that responded well at the outset, have had to re-impose curfews, lockdowns and other restrictions. Some countries for the very first time are requiring the wearing of masks in public. This is the new normal for the entire world until there is a vaccine,” he said.
The PM warned that the virus is very infectious. It is easy to catch and easy to pass on to others. The world will be in this cycle of: opening up, reviewing community spread, and tightening up again for quite some time.
“You must be prepared for this. The Bahamas must be prepared for this,” he said.
“We cannot allow our hospitals to be overrun.”
Minnis furthered that many priorities must be balanced, be they health, social and economic; Chief amongst these the health of the nation.
“We cannot risk the death of Bahamians and our residents. We must be resolved in our collective willingness to save lives,” he said.
According to him the Government has consulted heavily with health officials and are subsequently taking these strong actions to save lives.
He acknowledged that there will be frustration and the disappointment among many Bahamians and residents that may ensue as the government re-implement certain restrictions.
“But as a country we have to do what is right and necessary. If we do not take these measures now, we will pay a higher and deadlier price later. At the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic we acted early to prevent widespread sickness and death,” he said.
The PM furthered that Bahamasair to cease flights to US effective immediately Outgoing commercial flights will be permitted Outgoing private flights and charters will be permitted Outgoing sea vessels permitted
All returning residents by air or by sea must have a negative RT-PCR test result.
Domestic travel will still be permitted, but domestic health application must be completed.
Public and private beaches and parks on New Providence, Paradise Island, Grand Bahama and surrounding cays will be closed effective tomorrow at 5 p.m.
Restaurants at Arawak Cay and Potter’s Cay will be closed effective tomorrow.
The PM reminded that except for the new curfew hours on Grand Bahama, that the curfew hours for all other islands remain 10 p.m. to 5 a.m.
If cases continue to spike government is prepared to introduce more restrictive measures if necessary.
With regards to travel, the PM stated that international commercial flights and commercial vessels carrying passengers will not be permitted to enter our borders, except for commercial flights from Canada, the United Kingdom, and the European Union. This will come into effect as of Wednesday July 22nd, 2020 at midnight.
Bahamasair will cease outgoing flights to the United States of America, effective immediately.
To accommodate visitors scheduled to leave after Wednesday (July 22) outgoing commercial flights will be permitted.
Private international flights and charters for Bahamians, residents and visitors will be permitted.
Pleasure craft and yachts will also be permitted. All returning Bahamians, residents and visitors by air or sea from overseas will require a negative RT-PCR COVID-19 test result from an accredited lab.
You will be required to present your documents to immigration officials upon arrival. These tests must be taken no later than 10 days before the date of travel.
All of these individuals must also have an approved Health Visa to enter the country. Bahamians and residents returning to the country who are not in possession of a negative RT-PCR COVID-19 test result from an accredited lab will be required to self-quarantine for 14 days upon return, via the Hubbcat Monitoring App.
For travelers who do not agree to Hubcatt monitoring or whose premises are not approved by the Ministry of Health for quarantine, they must quarantine at a Government-identified facility at their own expense.
At the end of the quarantine period via Hubbcat or at the facility, COVID-19 testing will be required expense.
The Government will not be responsible for arrangements with private employers. The quarantine period will be counted as vacation for public servants.
“We are aware that the cessation of international commercial flights may affect students returning to or commencing college or university studies overseas. We intend to address this matter in a subsequent communication by government officials,” he said.
While every family must make their own decision on students studying overseas, parents and students may wish to consider the resumption of studies beginning in January 2021.
Domestic travel will continue to be permitted. However, I wish to advise that all travelers traveling domestically within The Bahamas are still required to complete an electronic Health Visa prior to departure at travel.gov.bs.
Any airline or commercial sea vessel that permits a passenger to board without the required Health Visa will face a fine of $500 per passenger who is not in compliance.
It shall be an offence for a person to submit a falsified result of a COVID 19 diagnostic test or to undergo the test prior to his or her departure from The Bahamas and present the results of the test on his return to The Bahamas as though the test had been carried out in another jurisdiction. Such persons are liable to a fine not exceeding $2,000 or to two years imprisonment or both.
Additionally, where a person knows or reasonably believes that he is infected with the COVID 19 virus and causes another to be exposed or infected that person commits an offence and upon summary conviction is liable to a fine not exceeding $1,000 in respect of each person who has been exposed or infected.
It shall be an offence for an airline or sea vessel to permit a passenger to board the vessel not wearing a face mask and without an approved travel health card from the Ministry of Health.
Upon summary conviction, the operator shall be subject to a fine of $500 in respect of each passenger in violation. It shall be an offence for persons to leave mandatory or self-quarantine before being released by the Ministry of Health. Upon summary conviction, such persons are liable to a fine of $250.