NASSAU, The Bahamas, Friday March 20, 2020 – An eight-hour curfew will go into effect in The Bahamas tonight under an emergency order that gives the government the authority to use temporary, but necessary measures in the country’s fight against the Coronavirus (COVID-19).
There are currently three confirmed case of the virus in The Bahamas.
Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis announced yesterday that the curfew will run from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m., with any exceptions to be approved by the Commissioner of Police.
“We will end the curfew after consultation with medical professionals. I stress that these are temporary measures,” he said.
Dr Minnis, who is a medical doctor, said the strong measures are intended to “save lives, protect health and aggressively attack the spread of COVID-19” which was first discovered in China.
Noting that social distancing has been shown to slow the spread, the Prime Minister strongly urged businesses to operate with essential staff only and to allow those who can work remotely, to work from their homes.
“Members of the Public Service shall work from home, as may be authorized by the Permanent Secretary, maintaining only essential staff for the performance of essential functions while adhering at all times to social distancing,” he said.
The Government has also requested that Water and Sewerage Corporation reconnect all disconnected services for residential customers to ensure personal hygiene is not compromised, and defer payment of bills – for an initial period of three months – for residential customers who are diagnosed with COVID-19, who are in quarantine or who have been laid off.
“The Government will cover the cost of those utility bills, as this is an unprecedented situation facing our nation,” Minnis said.
The regulations in the proclamation of emergency orders issued by Governor General Cornelius Smith also criminalize the deliberate creation of fake news for the purpose of inciting public fear or panic.
The Prime Minister said this is an important and necessary provision, noting that countries around the world are having difficulties with this issue.
“Some individuals are deliberately circulating lies and false information to cause panic, unrest, violence and confusion. In some countries, the creation of malicious fake news has led to killings by those who incited fear and panic.
“We must be responsible with what we say. There is now circulating through social media a fake emergency order that was not issued by the Government of The Bahamas. This was an intentional and malicious attack that could cause panic and harm. Just as we are fighting a virus that can cause harm we must address a contagion of fear and panic that can cause harm to others. I plead with Bahamians to play their role to stop the spread of COVID-19 and to the stop the spread of malicious and fake news,” he urged.
Prime Minister Minnis also urged Bahamians to be calm, and not to engage in any panic buying.
“I want to reassure Bahamians and residents that our food and medical supplies are well stocked and there is absolutely no need for panic buying or hoarding. Fuel supplies are also very strong. Propane gas is well stocked as well. Our ports will remain open for freight and cargo. Our airports will remain open. However, the Government of The Bahamas strongly discourages non-essential domestic and international travel,” he said.