In the face of fierce public backlash from residents and Bahamians on New Providence, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis yesterday relented on some of the “strict and aggressive” measures he announced on Monday night.
Food stores, pharmacies, water depots, gas stations and hardware stores will open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. until further notice, Minnis said in a statement, walking back his earlier measures.
“On Monday, 17 August, I made the announcement of increased restrictions for New Providence with immediate effect in order to save lives,” he said.
“My first priority is always to protect the health and safety of every Bahamian. However, after I spoke Monday night Bahamians from all walks of life raised concerns with me.
“From these discussions two things are clear: there is broad understanding of the need to lock down New Providence in order to control and slow the spread of COVID-19; however, it is also clear that families and businesses need more time to prepare.
“I hear you. I understand you and know that in many cases we must make adjustments in the short-term to strengthen in the long run.
“Earlier today, the Cabinet was briefed by officials of the Department of Meteorology and the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) who are closely monitoring a weather system which on its current path may affect The Bahamas by Sunday.
“Given the feedback from community stakeholders and the threat of a weather system that is developing, we are making adjustments to the New Providence lockdown.
“This is to allow residents who were unable to secure sufficient food, medicine and water to access essential items, and to make the necessary preparations as we monitor the weather system.
“Starting tomorrow, Wednesday, 19 August, grocery stores, pharmacies, water depots, gas stations and hardware stores will be allowed to open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., until further notice. Food wholesalers and manufacturers will also be allowed to operate during this period.”
Minnis said the National Insurance Board will resume check distribution tomorrow.
“I will provide additional details as it relates to the lockdown for New Providence when I address the nation later this week,” he said.
“NEMA is expected to brief the public on the weather system on Wednesday.
“Your best interests guide my decisions. These are difficult times for our country.
“As you shop for essential items and make preparations, please abide by the public health guidelines. Stay physically distant. Wear your masks. Wash or sanitize your hands regularly.
“We will beat this second wave by working together. And, as your prime minister, I will always listen and make decisions taking your needs, thoughts and feedback into consideration.”
Minnis was taken to task for not allowing Bahamians and residents time to properly prepare for the more aggressive seven-day lockdown.
While news of a seven-day lockdown with no food stores or gas stations leaked to the public earlier on Monday, many said they were unable to prepare.
A group of protesters, who chanted “enough is enough” and decried the current lockdown, were arrested near Windsor Park on Tuesday morning.
On Monday, Minnis said the seven-day lockdown would be one of “sacrifice and hardship” but will allow health officials to evaluate and monitor the spread of COVID-19 on the island.
There are a total of 821 cases of the virus on the island, 739 of which were recorded since July 8, the start of the second wave.
Only a limited number of essential services were permitted to operate under the initial seven-day lockdown.
There are 1,424 cases of COVID-19 in The Bahamas.
More than 1,300 of those were reported since July 1 when the borders reopened.
The government extended a state of emergency, which was declared in March in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, right before the reopening of the borders.
The move came as The Bahamas reported no new cases for several weeks. It was criticized by some who said the state of emergency and the emergency powers orders were unnecessary as the curve had been flattened.