Church services allowed with restrictions, extension of business hours


Tribune Senior Reporter

THE Bahamas has officially began the transition to stage two of Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis’ reopening plan, with worship services now permitted under various conditions and further relaxation of hours for business operations now sanctioned.

Beginning tomorrow, worship services can be held in all Family Islands cleared to resume commercial activity: Abaco, Andros, Long Island, Cat Island, Mayaguana, Inagua, Crooked Island, Acklins, Long Cay, Ragged Island and Rum Cay. In such cases, the services can be held in a sanctuary, the church is responsible for providing hand sanitisation at its entrance, and all participants must follow physical distancing, hygiene and sanitisation protocols and wear masks. Sunday school is not permitted.

“Communion may be held using disposable cups and distributers must wear a mask and gloves, and must exercise proper hygiene and sanitisation measures,” according to a statement from the Office of the Prime Minister released on Friday. “There will be one offering station. Offering baskets should not be passed around. Persons that are in high-risk categories are asked not to attend the service, including persons age 65 and over and those with comorbidities.”

As for New Providence, Grand Bahama and other islands not yet open to full commercial activity on weekdays, churches are allowed to hold services beginning tomorrow under highly restrictive conditions.

The services can only be held as drive-up services where attendees are seated in their cars––no sanctuary service is allowed.

The services must be limited to one hour and cars can only have four people from the same immediate household in them.

“Where an immediate household has more than four persons, the church leader is to issue a clear sign to be displayed visibly on the dashboard of the vehicle indicating that the church is familiar with the family and the immediate members exceed four persons,” according to the OPM.

Vehicles must be parked at least three feet apart and communion is not allowed. There has to be one offering station and offering baskets cannot be passed from vehicle to vehicle. People at risk or who have comorbidities are not to attend the drive-up service, according to the rules.

Services are permitted on Saturdays and Sundays and only during the weekend lockdown between 7am and 1pm.

As for businesses, medical facilities starting Monday can now provide non-emergency health services in accordance with guidelines by the Medical Association of the Bahamas and the Ministry of Health.

“The Bahamas has started to transition to phase two of the five-phase reopening plan,” the OPM said. “This phase includes the resumption of business operations in the Family Islands with no presence of COVID-19, increase in delivery and curbside operations, the addition of the healthcare services and manufacturing industries and the opening of worship services.”

Beginning Monday, there will be extension of hours and days of operations for certain already exempted businesses and services.

Plant nurseries will be allowed to open from 6am to 5pm on weekdays. Auto parts stores will be able to operate on weekdays from 8am to 5pm. Clearing banks and post office savings banks, money transmission businesses, insurance companies, and financial services will be allowed to operate on weekdays from 9am to 5pm.

Dry cleaners have now been added to the list of exempted businesses. They can operate on weekdays from 9am to 5pm.