I want to speak briefly this evening about a number of emergency measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19 on Exuma.
I also want to remind the country, that despite the recent good news of a possible vaccine in the months ahead, we still have quite a way to go before this pandemic is over.
A widely distributed vaccine will take some time.
In the meantime, we must continue to use the public health measures to keep us and our loved ones safe.
There is hope on the horizon.
But let us continue to hold on and to do the right things in order to save lives and to protect our health and that of our fellow Bahamians.
As you are aware, over the past few weeks, the Government has implemented a series of measures on New Providence, Abaco, and most recently on Eleuthera to reduce the spread of COVID-19 on those islands.
The measures on New Providence and Abaco have helped to significantly decrease the spread of the virus.
We have made considerable progress.
I thank you for your patience and your cooperation in following the health guidelines.
We have achieved this together!
But I assure you, that we can continue to make progress, if we continue to work together to protect each other by wearing our masks and by avoiding large gatherings.
As you are aware, after recommendations by health officials, the central government recently put in place a variety of health measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19 on mainland Eleuthera.
I am pleased to inform you that the Ministry of Health’s Surveillance Unit has reported that currently, all positive cases on Eleuthera are in isolation.
Further, all of their contacts are in quarantine and are being closely monitored.
I wish to also report that over the past two weeks, health officials have observed an exponential increase in cases on Exuma, following the October holiday weekend and two major social events.
Over the past week, Exuma has recorded 30 new confirmed cases of COVID-19.
As of yesterday, the 10th of November, a total of 79 positive cases of COVID-19 were recorded on the island of Exuma.
Of that number, 28 cases are active, two are hospitalized, and sadly, there has been one COVID-19 related death.
I offer my condolences to the family of the deceased and to all of those who recently lost loved ones.
The data from Exuma has demonstrated the need for urgent action on the island.
Accordingly, we are putting in place measures consistent with the health measures we recently implemented on Eleuthera.
We have already boosted the number of health officials on Exuma.
Additionally, a team consisting of contact tracers and members of the surveillance unit will be deployed to Exuma this coming Friday for further assessment.
The strategies employed by our health officials are as follows:
When there is an exponential increase in new confirmed cases of COVID-19 over a short period of time, restrictive measures will be put in place to mitigate the spread in that location.
These restrictive measures are combined with the wider and more comprehensive strategies that include contact tracing, testing, health screening surveys, isolation and quarantine.
Tonight, I wish to announce that effective Thursday, the 12th of November, the following health measures will take effect for mainland Exuma.
These measures do not apply to the Exuma Cays for the time being.
There will be a 24-hour weekend curfew starting Fridays at 6 p.m. and ending Mondays at 5 a.m.
During the weekend curfew, business operations will not be allowed.
The weekday curfew, Monday to Friday, will be from 6 p.m. to 5 a.m.
Commercial activity may continue as normal during the week, except as follows: fish frys, bars, and restaurants connected to bars, will be closed.
Private and public social gatherings are not allowed.
Funeral services may take place at the graveside only and will be limited to 10 people, not including the officiant and caretakers.
Weddings will be limited to 10 people, not including the officiant.
Repasts and receptions are prohibited for weddings and funerals.
Church services may take place only by virtual means. A maximum of ten persons may provide live stream services from the sanctuary.
In person classroom instruction is also prohibited but may take place by virtual means.
Another part of the strategy to manage COVID-19 is immediately to restrict travel from a high-risk location.
As such, effective tomorrow, domestic travel by air or sea vessels is prohibited in to and out of Exuma, except in an emergency and where approved by the Director of Civil Aviation Authority or the Chairman of the Bahamas Maritime Authority.
Anyone traveling from Exuma to any other island in The Bahamas will be required to have a negative COVID-19 RT PCR test to leave Exuma, except where exemptions are provided for in the Emergency Powers Order.
I know that this is short notice.
But such a measure is a critical part of the strategy to contain and to control the spread of COVID-19 throughout the country.
This measure is designed to stop possible spikes on other islands because of individuals who may be COVID 19 positive quickly moving to other islands.
I would like to point out that under the Emergency Powers Order travel is restricted from an island where Notice of a 24-hour curfew will be implemented.
Any one in breach of this will be subject to a fine under the Order.
I am pleading with residents of Exuma to abide by the Emergency Powers Order and to not flee Exuma to avoid the Order.
The Minister of Health will provide additional details on the COVID-19 situation in Exuma, and an update on Eleuthera at the Ministry’s regular press conference this Friday.
As I noted this past Sunday: as we emerge out of this second wave, let us be cautiously optimistic and let us continue to be careful.
Yesterday, the Government reimplemented the 14-day quarantine requirement for travelers from New Providence to the Family Islands.
This requirement will be in place for a short period of time only. We anticipate that it will be lifted once the domestic health screening survey is implemented, consistent with the international health screening survey.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We are opening up.
But if we stop following the public health advice, virus cases will increase again, and we may end up back under restrictions.
There are several things we must continue to do:
- Wear your masks properly over your mouth and nose;
- Wash or sanitize your hands regularly;
- When out, remain physically distant from others.
We must be mindful that even though our situation has improved to some extent, the pandemic is not over.
It will continue into next year.
Throughout this pandemic – through the good and the challenging times – we have followed the advice of our public health officials.
Let us continue to do so as One Bahamas.
I thank you again for your cooperation and adherence to the health measures.
Earlier today I took part in a wreath laying ceremony in honor of Remembrance Day.
Before I leave, I would like to pay a special tribute to those brave Bahamians in the armed forces who paid the ultimate sacrifice and those who served courageously at home and abroad to protect their fellow citizens and the cause of freedom.
I wish you and your family a pleasant good evening.
Thank you and may God bless you and may God bless our entire Bahamas.