This is Arinthia S. Komolafe – Leader of the DNA.
It is Monday, April 20, 2020 and another 24 hour curfew has begun.
The COVID-19 pandemic has hit The Bahamas and the Bahamian people hard.
We have seen businesses close and people laid off from work week after week. Businesses have found it difficult to survive without any income and Bahamians are struggling to make ends meet.
We are facing the worst health and economic crisis of our lifetime. The effect of this crisis on the lives and livelihood of Bahamians has been devastating. Many have lost loved ones without an opportunity to say goodbye, our people have fallen ill, others are caring for their sick loved ones, while so many don’t know where their next meal will come from.
In a twinkle of an eye, many striving Bahamians have lost their jobs and closed their businesses leaving them with no source of income.
Needless to say, the government’s response has been sometimes deficient, inconsistent, uncoordinated and confusing but this is not the time to highlight the various missteps and bad decisions. Our people are suffering. Bahamians are looking for hope and businesses are challenged to keep their doors open in an economy shut down by the government in response to this virus.
Health experts and economists have advised that the reopening of the economy should be gradual depending on the ability to control the spread of the virus and the readiness of the public healthcare system. This is important as we have seen a second wave of infections in China and South Korea.
The recommended approach to combat this virus is depicted in the 3Ts – Test, Trace and Track.
- Test on a wide scale and extensively
- Trace all contacts of infected persons
- Track all infected persons and people in quarantine or self isolation
It is clear that The Bahamas is challenged on all three fronts.
There is a need for a comprehensive and sensible plan to win this fight and to responsibly reopen the Bahamian economy.
We are in a crisis.
All hands must be on deck.
We must all work together.
We can and will win this fight.
But our approach must make sense and be strategic.
We cannot keep increasing the number of businesses allowed to open without a rationale on one hand and ask why there are so many people on the roads on the other hand.
We cannot send mixed or incomplete messages on the use or non-use of face masks.
We must be fair and equitable in our decisions to exempt one business and not the other.
It is unwise to pit employees against employers at this crucial time. We need words that unite us as a people not comments that divide us. We will need the private sector, civil society, workers and the whole Bahamas to rebuild our economy. This is not the time for pandering or comments that raise tension.
We must not demoralize the healthcare professionals risking their lives on the frontline by ignoring their concerns.
It is simply wrong to ignore the cries of the poor, homeless, elderly, disabled and vulnerable in society who are suffering as a result of this lockdown. I remind the government of the words in Proverbs 21:14:
Whoever shuts their ears to the cry of the poor will also cry out and not be answered.
Many are lamenting the hike in prices of basic grocery items at stores and they are concerned that the promised assistance is slow in coming through.
This must be addressed urgently.
We call on the government to produce a plan for the opening of the economy with timelines and indicators that will guide each phase of this process.
We must be strategic about our approach and not make it up as we go.
The Cook Islands – an island of about 17,000 people recently declared itself COVID-19 free following significant testing and assessments. We can learn from this approach by ramping up testing and begin to designate The Bahamas COVID-19 free one island at a time. A phased opening with screening protocols before entry and starting with domestic tourism could then follow. We must think outside the box.
It is clear that reopening the economy without a national testing strategy and clear guidelines could be disastrous and set us back in the event of a second wave.
A word to the wise is sufficient.
I conclude by saluting all essential workers in healthcare, pharmaceutical, banking, security, uniformed branches, retail and other sectors for your service. A grateful nation and people appreciates all you do and the sacrifice you make daily. Know that we are praying for you.
Let us all continue to follow the instructions provided by healthcare professionals and comply with the Emergency Order. Kindly stay at home unless you have to go out for essential items or services.
This too shall pass. The Lord is our shield and keeper. He will bring us out and restore our Bahamaland.
God bless you and God bless the Commonwealth of The Bahamas.
Arinthia S. Komolafe
Democratic National Alliance