Minnis Government cannot provide any science behind its lockdown measures…Davis challenged the government to provide evidence!
By The Hon. Philip ‘Brave’ Davis, Q.C. M.P.
Progressive Liberal Party
House of Assembly
26 October 2020
OPPOSITION TO EMERGENCY MEASURES
Mr. Speaker, we do not support an extension of the Emergency Measures.
Bahamians are suffering. We are in a health crisis. We are in an economic crisis. And we are suffering from a leadership crisis, too, with lack of trust in this government spreading even faster than this terrible virus.
And now we have an administrative crisis to contend with as well.
Mr. Speaker, COVID case counts are low and stable in many nations, including many of our regional neighbors.
Yet here, cases continue to grow – hundreds more every week.
In fact, every few days, The Bahamas records more new COVID cases than Barbados has recorded in total 1 since the pandemic began in March.
The government’s COVID policies are a failure.
They have imposed harsh restrictions on the people of this country, they have taken a wrecking ball to our local economy, and at the same time they have utterly failed to contain the virus.
Yet this so-called Competent Authority wants to continue to exercise broad, sweeping powers over Bahamians, with no Parliamentary oversight.
No self-respecting Parliamentarian should agree to this. Why should we surrender our constitutional prerogative to scrutinize, debate, and improve the rules governing our people, especially when some of our most important freedoms are curtailed by those rules?
Mr. Speaker, the Emergency Orders were intended to be short-term, a way to give the government the flexibility to manage an urgent public health crisis.
You will recall that the Progressive Liberal Party supported the initial state of emergency.
Yet here we are – more than 220 days later, and we still have, when it comes to this pandemic, one-man rule.
No one can argue seriously that our Constitution envisioned a Competent Authority of one man — one man holding himself beyond accountability for
months on end.
These Emergency Orders represent a suspension of some of our most fundamental rights.
Yet we don’t know whom the Competent Authority consults, or if he consults anyone at all, when deciding to lock the people of this country into their homes.
Where is the data that justifies a 7pm curfew as opposed to a 10pm curfew?
Where is the proof that weekend lockdowns are effective and that the benefits out-weigh the harms?
How many businesses have closed their doors due to these restrictions, even as they fail to stop transmission of the virus?
Where is the scientific evidence that supports closing beaches to Bahamians, when the virus is mainly transmitted inside, not outside, when people are increasingly crowded into homes, when everyone is pushed to their limit and needs a break?
He’s following the science, he says. Show us that science, I say.
Mr. Speaker, these matters ought to be debated in Parliament. Let the man who is making these decisions attempt to justify them before the people and their representatives.
Notice that the one man in this one-man-rule avoids opportunities to be questioned. He chooses National Addresses instead of press conferences or (virtual) town halls, so he doesn’t have to face the press or the people.
He wants it his way, even if his way is failing.
The tragedy is that our country has become a case study for how not to manage a public health crisis.
We continue to rank at the bottom of countries globally when it comes to our country’s response to COVID.
In July, our borders were opened without the resources in place to stop any new cases of the virus from proliferating. And thus a few cases turned into
more than six thousand and counting. This was not inevitable. It did not have to be this bad. This is what government failure looks like.
Global COVID Index (GCI) https://covid19.pemandu.org/
The government has become expert at pointing to other countries that are also failing to contain the virus. Yet there are many countries, including many developing nations, who are succeeding.
A strong leader would look to the successful nations, not the failing ones, and be determined to make sure our country was among them. It’s infuriating to see this government signal defeat when so much is at stake. We need leadership, not surrender.
Seven months in, he is asking for the continued ability to suspend the constitutional rights of the Bahamian people, even though he has no plan to
Lockdowns are not a plan. Lockdowns are evidence of an ongoing failure to find and isolate the virus to stop transmission.
The Competent Authority is not competent; he is not even interested. He sends out other people to defend his policies.
He has run out of ideas.
It is agonizing to see other countries protect their citizens while here the virus spreads and Bahamians are under siege.
Our health care system is near collapse. Our doctors and nurses are exhausted and need reinforcements.
More than seven months into this crisis, the government still has not set up adequate protocols to keep non-COVID patients at PMH safe from the virus.
In the meantime, The Bahamas is behind countries like Jamaica and Trinidad in securing therapeutic medicines for COVID patients.
Mr. Speaker, without a plan to stop COVID, there can be no real economic recovery. Nations will continue to warn their citizens to stay away. Local businesses will continue to buckle under the pressure.
Bahamians need jobs, not an inadequate food distribution system. Bahamians need a government that supports them, instead of blaming and punishing them.
I cannot understand how this government justifies turning off water and electricity at a time like this.
It’s as if they’ve given up on defeating the virus and are instead trying to defeat the people.
It’s long past time to change course.
Mr. Speaker, the Progressive Liberal Party has a ten-point Action Plan to contain COVID so that we can protect Bahamians and begin our economic recovery.
The Bahamas can be a success story.
We need widespread testing so we can find the virus, help people get treatment, trace their contacts, and break transmission chains.
We need to knock down barriers to testing. We need to make testing free — because your ability to protect yourself and your family from COVID shouldn’t depend on your income.
Your wealth should not determine your health.
Mr. Speaker, I hope Bahamians will look at this Action Plan themselves: http://covidactionplan.org
Let’s make testing free for any Bahamian who may have been exposed to the virus.
Let’s hire and train more contact tracers.
Let’s help people who test positive isolate themselves from others while they’re infectious.
Let’s make sure therapeutic treatments are available
Let’s take better care of the doctors and nurses who are taking care of us.
Let’s give Bahamians the information they need to protect themselves and their families.
Let’s make our homes, churches, schools, public buildings and private offices safer with ventilation and air filtration, so we reduce airborne transmission of the virus.
Let’s help Bahamians understand the different ways they can reduce their risks.
And Mr. Speaker, let’s be on the side of the Bahamian people: Let’s deliver emergency cash support to help people buy food and water and pay for gas and electricity. Let’s support small businesses. Let’s work with landlords and banks to help people stay in their homes.
It’s the right thing to do and it’s the smart thing to do; it will help families and inject much-needed cash into our local economy.
Remember, this government asking for sacrifice from the people made the reckless decision to spend more than $100 million of the people’s money on an empty hotel in Freeport.
No one should consent to being lectured by people who make mistakes on such a colossal scale.
Mr. Speaker, as a country we can enact the public health measures we need through ordinary legislation.
For all the vast powers granted to the Competent Authority in the Emergency Proclamations, he has not used them to keep our nation safe.
He is repeating his mistakes, instead of learning from them.
One of our nation’s leading infectious disease experts was asked to rank our country’s readiness to welcome tourists back, on a scale of one to five, with five being the most prepared. She said The Bahamas is at a one.
Mr. Speaker, November 1st is less than one week away.
All of our alarm bells should be going off.
Let’s not waste another minute.