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Breaking | PM announces curfew, business closures with some exceptions

Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis has ordered that as of tomorrow a curfew will be imposed across the country and all businesses, with limited exceptions, will suspend operations for a period of 11 days in an effort to fight COVID-19.

Minnis said the order is designed to save lives.

During a press conference a short while ago, the prime minister said the orders will come into force tomorrow, March 20, 2020 and expire at 9 a.m. on March 31.

He said a curfew will be imposed each night from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. with such exception as may be approved by the commissioner of police.

Minnis issued the orders in exercise of the emergency powers conferred to him by the Emergency Powers COVID-19 Regulations, 2020, which was tabled in the House of Assembly yesterday.

The prime minister mandated that all establishments, institutions, businesses, offices, stores and organizations suspend operations to the general public except for the following: wholesale or retail grocery stores and farmers’ markets; doctors’ offices, hospitals or medical facilities; pharmacies; gas stations; medical supply establishments; hotels; banks; commercial ports and related businesses; airports; laundromats; drive thru or take away food vendors, and construction companies.

Subject to that order, all other establishments, institutions, businesses or offices inclusive of the public service, as may be authorized by the respective permanent secretary, shall work from home and such establishments, institutions, businesses or offices shall maintain only essential staff for the performance of core functions while adhering at all times to social distancing as prescribed above.

Most of the exempt businesses will only be allowed to open between 6 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Banks will be allowed to open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Drive thru and take-away food vendors can operate until 7:30 p.m. and construction companies can operate until 7 p.m.

Under the orders, the prime minister also prohibited a wide range of social events.

The orders state that no one can host or attend a private party that includes any person from outside of the immediate household of the house occupant; a recreational or competitive sporting event; a wedding which hosts 10 or more people other than the bride, bridegroom, official witnesses and the marriage officer; a banquet, ball or reception; any social event; a funeral, except 10 members of the immediate family and at least one officiant and essential mortuary staff; or a meeting of a fraternal society, private or social club or civic association or organization.

He also ordered that no one use public bus transportation; mail boat, sailing inter island, except for transport of freight; or inter island private commercial sea transport that is nonessential.

The orders do not affect the armed forces, waste and sanitation workers, hospital and medical staff; or other sectors encompassing the provision of electronic communications, including print and electronic media.

Additionally, the orders do not prohibit religious or educational instruction, worship or other activity by electronic or virtual means; or prohibit individual attendance at a church for private individual prayer while maintaining social distancing.

Any person, company or organization who contravenes any order given herein is liable upon summary conviction to a fine not exceeding $10,000 or to a term of imprisonment not exceeding 18 months or to both.

The prime minister said he had meetings with the Royal Bahamas Police Force and the Roya Bahamas Defence Force about the curfew.

He said they are ready to take action.

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