NATIONAL ADDRESS COVID - 19 Update The Most Hon. Dr. Hubert Minnis Prime Minister Sunday, 3 May 2020

 
NATIONAL ADDRESS COVID - 19 Update The Most Hon. Dr. Hubert Minnis Prime Minister Sunday, 3 May 2020
NATIONAL ADDRESS

      COVID – 19 Update

The Most Hon. Dr. Hubert Minnis
        Prime Minister

      Sunday, 3 May 2020

               1
My Fellow Bahamians and Residents:

   Good aftternoon.

   We are making progress in our fight

against the COVID -19 virus.

   The measures we have put in place to

stem the outbreak are working.

   But we cannot as a country let down our

guard.

   There is still much work to be done in the

weeks and months ahead.

                      2
The 24-hour curfew from Monday 5am to

Friday 9pm will continue as will the

lockdowns from Friday 9pm to Monday 5am.

   We have to continue to wear our masks

to practice physical distancing as well as to

wash our hands thoroughly along with other

measures.

   To   date,   there       remain 83 confirmed

cases of COVID-19 in The Bahamas.

                        3
This includes 67 in New Providence, 7 in

Grand Bahama, 8 in Bimini and 1 in Cat

Cay.

   The Ministry of Health has reported no

new confirmed cases of COVID -19 today.

   Because of the progress we are making,

I am pleased to announce that effective

tomorrow, May 4th, we will move to Phase 1b

in the reopening of our economy.

                     4
This portion of phase 1 focuses on

delivery   and    curbside    service    and

construction.

   This phased re-opening is aimed at

striking the right balance between permitting

some further level of commerce to resume

while still maintaining a vigilant national

position promoting physical distancing and

reinforcing the health and safety precautions

necessary to mitigate community spread of

COVID-19.
                      5
The objective of the first phase is to

stimulate businesses through economic

activity and to meet needs important to the

population during this health crisis.

   Starting tomorrow:

   Businesses that can provide goods and

services through delivery and curbside pick-

up will be able to do so Monday through

Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

                       6
Construction on New Providence and

Grand Bahama will be allowed to operate

from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.

   Home     and   hardware     stores,   plant

nurseries and auto parts stores may expand

to 5-day online delivery and curbside

services if they have the capacity.

   This is in addition to the in-store days

those stores are currently allowed to

operate.

                        7
For example, home and hardware stores

that are allowed to offer in-store services on

Wednesdays and Fridays, may now offer

delivery and curbside services Monday,

Tuesday and Thursday.

   They may also offer delivery and

curbside services during their in-store

operating days.

   Businesses must be able to demonstrate

existing capabilities to take orders by phone

or online and acknowledgement of receipt.

                      8
Businesses should use gloves and other

protocols in handling and delivery of goods

and interaction with customers.

   Proper physical distancing and sanitizing

measures must be practiced at all times.

   I   am   pleased       to   announce   that

construction will now be permitted on New

Providence and Grand Bahama with industry

protocols that cover transportation, the use

of Personal Protective Equipment, physical

                      9
distancing,    cleaning    and    disinfecting

protective measures and other measures.

   These protocols were established in

conjunction with the Bahamas Chamber of

Commerce and the Bahamas Construction

Association.

   Professional athletes will also be allowed

to resume training under Phase 1b.

   Let me remind you of the health

guidelines utilized to determine the transition

from one phase to the next.

   The criteria include:
                      10
- The number of new cases over

 specified time intervals together with

 model predictions;

- The capacity of the health system to

 respond to increased number of cases;

- The number and dispersion of contacts

 of confirmed cases throughout the

 archipelago;

- Identification     of     vulnerabilities   in

 congregate facilities, such as Her

 Majesty’s         Prison     and     long-stay

 facilities; and
                      11
- Adherence to existing restrictions.

   These criteria are in tandem with the

strengthening of our health care capacity.

   • The establishment of the South Beach

Clinic;

   • Training and cross training of health

care providers;

   • Enhanced training for patient care

technicians in infection control monitoring;

   • Proposed training to increase the

number of certified respiratory therapists;
                      12
• Mobile response teams to manage

outbreak situations;

   • Adequate and appropriate use of

protective-equipment;

   • The capacity to test those who carry the

disease; and

   •   Monitoring   the     use   of   research

materials to mitigate morbidity and mortality

in the COVID- 19 and post Dorian period.

   The Government will regularly receive

reports on these criteria as we seek to keep
                       13
the level of transmission low while we

gradually and safely reopen our economy.

   Fellow Bahamians and Residents:

   The phased plan for reopening our

economy and our islands is a guideline.

   We will have to be flexible in the

application of the guidelines.

   If advised by our health officials to do so

we may have to go back to certain

restrictions.

   If we are making more progress we may

be able to ease certain restrictions quicker.
                      14
The opening of various Family Islands

was set to begin in Phase Two.

   But we have decided to gradually re-

open our Family Islands by zone, starting

tomorrow in the Southern Bahamas.

   The following islands will be able to

resume normal commercial activity effective

Monday, May, 4th: Ragged Island, Rum Cay,

Mayaguana,     Inagua,   Crooked    Island,

Acklins and Long Cay.

                    15
Physical distancing and other safety

protocols must be practiced and will be

enforced at all times.

   Border restrictions as it relates to the

travel of passengers in the Family Islands

remain except for emergency and other

circumstances which must be approved by

the Civil Aviation Authority.

   However, residents of New Providence

who are currently in the islands just

                         16
mentioned, will be allowed to return to New

Providence.

   Curfew and lockdown measures remain

in effect for all Family Islands, including the

zones    that   have   returned        to    normal

commercial activity.

   Using guidelines provided by health

officials, other islands will be allowed to

resume     commercial       activity        at   the

appropriate time.

                       17
Fellow Bahamians and Residents:

   There was an incident last week involving

some residents who flew by private aircraft

to New Providence and brought COVID-19

test kits with them.

   The protocol for allowing Bahamians and
legal residents to enter the country at this
time was breached last week.

   I have now been informed that instead of
the stated two permanent residents who
were allowed to disembark and remain in the

                       18
country that it was actually six permanent
residents, who are all related.

   All of these individuals have tested
negative for COVID-19 and will remain under
a mandatory 14-day quarantine.

   The Minister of Health will issue a
statement on this matter tomorrow.

   Let me be clear about the protocol for
Bahamians and residents wishing to return
to The Bahamas.

                      19
Citizens and legal residents of The

Bahamas, the latter with a home in The

Bahamas, will be permitted entry into The

Bahamas via air travel to New Providence or

Grand Bahama unless approved otherwise.

   Those individuals in these categories are

to make contact with the nearest Bahamas

Embassy or Consulate to them.

   Aircraft and airlines proposing to carry

such individuals are required to make flight

applications in the normal course to the

Department of Civil Aviation.
                     20
Each person will be required to obtain a

RT-PCR COVID 19 molecular diagnostic

test from an accredited lab prior to returning,

unless otherwise approved to have the test

administered upon arrival.

   As some individuals returning from

Florida have indicated they are having a

difficulty in obtaining this test, we are helping

to facilitate them in obtaining the diagnostic

test.
                       21
The test results, identifying particulars

and contact information of each returning

individual will be submitted to the Office of

the Chief Medical Officer, Ministry of Health.

   All those returning will be required to be

quarantined    for    fourteen   days,   in   a

government quarantined facility or self

quarantined.

   They will all be subject to mandatory

quarantine verification monitoring by the

Ministry of Health.
                       22
Fellow Bahamians and Residents:

   As I announced in the House of

Assembly      this    past     Monday,      the

Government has made arrangements for the

return of hundreds of Bahamians who have

been in the United States for some time.

   It is expected that they will begin arriving

to New Providence by this weekend.

   For this group of Bahamians returning

from the United States on the commercial

aircraft, these individuals will have the option
                       23
of self-quarantining at home or being

quarantined at the facility the Government

has identified for the group, for a two-week

period.

    Individuals in quarantine, at home or in

the Government facility, must adhere to the

strict protocols established by public health

officials.

    Those who break quarantine or violate

the quarantine order face a $20,000 fine or

five years imprisonment, or both. This will be

strictly enforced.
                      24
Fellow Bahamians and Residents:

   The National Food Committee is making

preparations to ensure fair and adequate

food distribution for all Bahamians and

residents.

   To date there are 88 NGOs and private

sector entities involved in the national food

effort who have provided information for a

national survey.

   Responses have come from Grand

Bahama,      New     Providence,     Abaco,
                     25
Eleuthera, Exuma, Andros, Cat Island,

Acklins, Long Island, San Salvador, Berry

Islands, Bimini, Crooked Island, Mayaguana

and Inagua.

   A National database is in development.

The database will allow any individual in

need to register, with three clarifying

locational    references,   including,   island,

constituency, and settlement or residential

community.

   The Food Committee is in discussion

with Samaritan's Purse who is offering
                       26
to seek international support from the World

Food Program and          other international

partners to underwrite a voucher program for

people in need in Abaco and Grand

Bahama.

   The Committee is carrying out a capacity

analysis of the NGOs and PSEs for a three-

month window to better understand where

we are and what national capacity looks like.

   The estimate is that the collective costs

to these entities to be nearly $250,000 a
                     27
week, which I wish to acknowledge with

gratitude.

   The Committee will over the coming days

and weeks provide more details on the

structure of the program and how food will

be distributed.

   I once again thank the members of the

Committee for their spirit of patriotism and

community service.

   This is what solidarity and national unity

look like.
                     28
Fellow Bahamians and Residents:

   Early in the fight against COVID -19, the

Ministry of Health advised that, as a key

strategy to reduce transmission, schools

should be closed.

   I advised the Minister of Education of this

decision   and,   therefore,   schools   were

ordered close on Monday, March 16th, 2020.

   To continue the education of students in

the government-operated school system,

the Ministry of Education enhanced the

development of the Virtual Learning School
                      29
that was launched in September 2019,

following Hurricane Dorian.

   The enhancement of the Virtual Learning

required the development and expansion of

ICT infrastructure to host the virtual learning

activities and to train teachers and staff.

   Within a number of days, the Department

of Education was able to train in excess of

2,100 of its approximately 3,000 teachers in

the use of Zoom and other virtual platforms

to support online teaching.

                       30
Led by curriculum officers, hundreds of

teachers were engaged in the process of

content development.

   The Ministry of Education was able to

commence its virtual learning platform on

Monday 23th March and added the feature

of ‘live’ instruction one week later.

   Registration of students to the platform

continues to climb and now stands at about

                       31
41,000 public, private and home-schooled

students.

   While the number of registered students

is commendable, the Ministry is concerned

about the approximately 15,000 students

who are not engaged in learning at this time,

due to a lack of internet, devices or both.

   To assist those without the available

internet or devices, the Ministry partnered

with Cable Bahamas to launch two channels

                      32
on Wednesday 15th April, 2020, to broadcast

academic content.

   Channel 295 was dedicated to New

Providence, Grand Bahama, Abaco and

Eleuthera, while Cable 12 served the

majority of the remainder of the Family

Islands.

   I am assured also that the children on the

few Family Islands which are unable to

receive either Channels 295 or 12 are being

                     33
assisted by their parents and teachers in

obtaining their instructions online.

   The material now being broadcast are

designed for students studying for the BJC

and BGCSE Exams.

   A separate channel will be launched

soon, with materials for the other grades.

   The Ministry of Education is securing

some     5,000    devices    for   distribution

throughout the Bahamas.

                       34
The first students to receive these

devices will be those on the Ministry’s lunch

feeding program, followed by others as

deemed necessary.

    I wish to thank the Ministry of Education

staff and administrators, teachers and staff

throughout the country for their hard work

during this time.

   The Ministry of        Education   is also

addressed the nutritional needs of our most

economically vulnerable students.

                     35
Efforts were made to distribute food

vouchers   to   the   4,300   students   who

ordinarily participate in the school feeding

program.

   The Ministry was happy that, in the

Family Islands, the collection rates were very

high.

   Unfortunately, the collection rate in the

urban areas of Nassau and Freeport, was

not good, with only about half of the

vouchers being collected.

                      36
The public is advised that the Ministry of

Education will engage in a second round of

voucher distribution for students who were

already on the school lunch program.

   One   of     the    implications   of   online

education, now that the traditional school

has been suspended, is that end of term and

National Exams such as the GLAT, BJC and

BGCSE        have     been   postponed,     NOT

cancelled.

                        37
These    exams    will   still   take   place

whenever the opportunity arises to conduct

them safely.

   For this reason, students are reminded

that in order to do well on their exams, they

must remain studious and disciplined in their

studies.

   Parents are encouraged to ensure that

their children develop a schedule for their

school work, and attend to them diligently.

                     38
To expand the Ministry’s support for

students, particularly those preparing for

National Examinations, the Ministry of

Education is in the process of re-engaging

The One on One Learning Management

System,   a    Public      Private   Tripartite

Partnership between the Ministry and Cable

& Wireless and BTC.

   One-on-One is a relatively new and

innovative company out of Jamaica which

has offered online learning to students in

                      39
countries    across     the    English-Speaking

Caribbean.

   In the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian,

thousands of Bahamian students benefited

free   of   charge      from   the    extra-tuition

opportunities     afforded     them      by    this

partnership.

   The Minister of Education assured me

that such an arrangement will further support

the Virtual Learning Platform which his

Ministry    has   put     in   place,    ensuring
                         40
opportunities for all students in both public

and private schools.

   In terms of the re-opening of schools, the

public is again reminded that the Ministry of

Education will be guided by the advice of the

Ministry of Health and its officials.

   However, in the short term, matters

pertaining to the continued development of

learning resources, increasing access to the

Virtual Learning Platform by vulnerable

                       41
students, student assessment and other

logistics are being addressed.

Fellow Bahamians and Residents:

   Since the very beginning of our fight

against the COVID-19 virus, we have had to

work in a spirit of solidarity and national

unity.

   We must continue to work together, in

love and unity, to protect our country and

each other.

                     42
We have a very long and difficult road

ahead to restore our health, to restore our

economy and to restore our society.

   We will have to rely on each other and

greater self-reliance to pull through and to

endure.

   But we will travel this rough road

together.

   We must do so with faith in ourselves and

faith in Almighty God, who is fortress and our

strength.
                      43
Let us recall during this difficult time the

words of inspiration and encouragement

from the song, “When the Road Seems

Rough” from the Legend of Sammy Swain

written by E. Clement Bethel, which I wish to

paraphrase.

   “When the road seems rough, when

you’ve borne enough, don’t cry, don’t sigh …

just keep on trying … This time will pass,

tomorrow’s another day.”

                      44
Let me end with the prayer I offered for

the Annual U. S. National Prayer Breakfast

in Washington D.C. held yesterday.

   Lord of Life, God of New Beginnings:

   We come before you seeking wisdom

and discernment during these days of trial

and challenge.

   We beseech you to give comfort to the

dying, the ill and their families.

   We ask you to heal the sick of heart,

mind, body and spirit.
                         45
Protect all of those who minister to us on

the frontlines of the global pandemic

threatening the peoples and nations of the

world.

   Grant us a spirit of global solidarity.

   Grant us the gifts of kindness, humility

and compassion for all.

   Grant us the gift of peace in our hearts

and the cessation of conflict and war.

   Invoke in us words and deeds of love and

justice as we care for the poor, the

vulnerable and the marginalized in our lands.
                      46
Just as you bring life out of death and

new life abundantly, grant us the courage,

the hope, the will and the foresight to bring

new life out of this time of pain and suffering.

   God of New Beginnings: Give us the gift

of a new Pentecost.

   Let your Spirit reign in our hearts.

   In the lamentation of the Psalmist, we

plead and cry out to the Lord of Life:

   “ … O Lord … hear [our] voice.

   O let your ears be attentive to the voice

of [our] pleading.”
                       47
With deep faith in our God, the words of

Isaiah 41: 10 are our shield and our refuge:

   “Fear not, for I am with you, be not

dismayed, for I am your God;

   I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will

uphold you with my victorious right hand.”

   God of New Beginnings

   Through your Spirt, may we ever be men

and women of gratitude and generosity, of

justice and mercy, of fortitude and faith

   God of New Beginnings: To thee we

pray.
                       48
Amen!

Fellow Bahamians and Residents:

   May God continue to bless our Bahamas.

   Thank you and good evening.

                   ____

                   49
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