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Minnis relaxes more restrictions; says Bahamas "envy of the world"

Prime MInister Dr. Hubert MInnis has extended Emergency Orders to the end of July and announced the further relaxation of some restrictions.

As he wrapped up the budget debate with a lengthy contribution, Minnis announced that effective today, the government has amended the nightly curfew hours to 10pm to 5am. The previous curfew was 9pm to 5am.

"As I progress you will see that as certain sectors of society are opened, that additional time is necessary but as I speak you would appreciate," according to Minnis.

Additionally, he said businesses are now allowed to operate until 8pm.

"Indoor eating at restaurants will be allowed with physical distancing required," he said.

"Sanitization and mask wearing by all staff at all times and patrons when entering and exiting the establishment."

Maximum seating will be based on 50 percent occupancy, meaning 30 square feet per person, he said. With time, he said, this will be extended beyond 50 percent occupancy but stressed social distancing must be adhered to.

Vendors at Arawak Cay may continue outdoor dining but indoor dining is not permitted at this time. Roadside vendors will be standardized to ensure proper hygiene and hand sanitization protocols are in place, according to Minnis.

Minnis also announced the opening of public parks and beaches on New Providence, Paradise Island, Grand Bahama and Bimini effective Monday, June 29,2020.

Gatherings greater than five people are prohibited he said, stressing no beach parties are allowed.

Funeral services and wedding ceremonies may be held with numbers based on social distancing protocols established for Saturday and Sunday church services. He says this depends on the size of the church.

However, the graveside portion of funeral services is still limited to 30 people with physical distancing protocols and masks required.

Social gatherings at private facilities and homes may be held at homes with 20 or less people.

Effective, Wednesday, July 1, taxi services may resume. Public and private bus services may also resume with 50 percent occupancy on that date.

Effective July 5, gyms, outdoor group exercise and spas may reopen with health safety protocols approved by the Ministry of Health.

The prime minister stressed that establishments, bus and taxi owners will be held responsible for allowing "maskless" patrons to enter their businesses and ensuring occupancy is limited to allow for social distancing. If this is not adhered to, the owner will be fined up to $10,000, sentenced up to 18 months in prison or both. A second violation will result in a higher fine. A third violation will lead to the facility's temporary closure.

Minnis said he understands the burden the lockdown and restrictions have placed on Bahamians over the last three months.

"I assure the Bahamian people and residents that wearing of these facial masks has saved lives and protected our health," he said.

"As we open our borders, Bahamians must be more disciplined and they must be more responsible. We were successful in keeping our numbers low and keeping our death rate low."

"We are the envy of the world. Many will want to visit our shores. Your government has done the best it can and as we open our shores, we depend more on you to be responsible and you must do your part."

"As we continue to come out of this lockdown period, Mr. Speaker, let us not allow this new sense of freedom to overcome the discipline that we displayed up to now with regard to social distancing, regular hand washing and mask wearing. We cannot squander the results of the hard work that we undertook as a community," he said.

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