Prime Minister outlines COVID-19 response

Schools closed, restricted travel expanded, additional medical resources secured

The Government has announced the closure of all public schools and expanded the list of restricted travel countries to include Europe and the UK as part of the national response to the COVID-19 coronavirus, Prime Minister the Most Hon. Dr. Hubert Minnis announced on Sunday night in a live televised address to the nation.

Additional medical resources have also been secured. The Government will have access to to the Doctor’s Hospital on Blake Road to use as a facility to treat individuals who test positive for COVID-19.

The Bahamas confirmed its first case of COVID-19, a 61-year-old female, on Sunday 15 March.

The Prime Minister outlined some of the measures the Government is taking in response to COVID-19, including health and medical measures, and economic, financial and other aspects of the crisis.

“I have instructed every Government ministry and agency to be in full preparedness mode,” he said. “This is our greatest national priority.”

Prime Minister Minnis said schools will close starting Monday 16 March and will re-open on Tuesday 14 April.

To encourage social distancing and minimize the transmission of COVID-19, all national sporting events have been postponed until further notice and permits for the use of public open spaces have been suspended indefinitely.

Travel restrictions for Europe, the United Kingdom and Ireland take effect on Thursday 19 March. This is in addition to restrictions already in place for China, Iran, Italy and South Korea.

“This restricted travel list of countries will be continuously monitored and updated as necessary,” said the Prime Minister.

All Bahamian nationals and residents returning to The Bahamas through any point of entry from any of the restricted countries or an area where community infection and spread is present will be quarantined or be placed under self-isolation upon arrival and expected to follow the protocols of the Ministry of Health.

Bahamian nationals or residents returning to The Bahamas who have been abroad and believe that they may have been exposed to COVID-19 should contact the Ministry of Health’s hotline or their local health provider.

Non-essential travel for Bahamian nationals and residents is being strongly discouraged.

“This coronavirus crisis represents yet another risk to our economy and the country’s finances and fiscal sustainability plans,” said the Prime Minister. “This will affect Bahamian workers and businesses and will have an impact on the poorer and more vulnerable in our country.”

When the House of Assembly meets on Wednesday, the Minister of Finance will address the economic and fiscal aspects of the crisis and outline a number of measures the Government is taking to deal with the tremendous economic impact, said the Prime Minister.

The Minister of Tourism and Aviation will also give a communication in the House of Assembly on Wednesday.

The Prime Minister said that he will meet and consult with major business entities to get their input on the Government’s national response.

National security measures will also be enhanced in order to maintain necessary law and order, said Prime Minister Minnis.

The Prime Minister assured Bahamians that there will be adequate food at food stores and there is no need to panic-buying.

“We will be strong, confident and vigorous in our national response,” said Prime Minister Minnis. “Our response must be across the board and includes all of us working together to fight COVID-19.”