Bahamas Press 10th August,2020
I admit that after the Prime Minister’s presentation last night I am confused and concerned by what I heard. What I think I heard was a plan to make space for even more Covid-19 patients and more ill-advised lockdowns. Nowhere did I hear anything about more testing nor a plan to disrupt the transmission of the virus which is crucial if we are to safely reopen our economy.
The Prime Minister’s grand announcement that the southerly islands were now open because they were relatively Covid-19 free should give their residents no joy. The Bahamas has always weathered economic storms because the archipelagic nature of our nation made it possible for our citizens to move from islands where there were few jobs to those where there were excess jobs. Each island has a unique economic system which has sustained its residents and, over generations, they have developed their unique specialisations. Inagua has salt production; the Exumas sailing, fishing, and tourism, Cascarilla bark harvesting, bone fishing, eco-tourism and so on are all strong in our southerly islands.
It is a testament to the government’s ignorance of how the Bahamian economy operates that they would lockdown and devastate many island economies for no sound medical reason. What is really rankling to these islands’ residents is that, at the time of the lockdown, none had a single case of Covid-19. Yet the government persists in this dangerous nonsense. Lockdowns without aggressive testing, tracing, isolation of confirmed cases and quarantine of their contacts is futile. Take Bimini as an example of what I mean. There were 13 cases before a lockdown and now more than 40 cases. If we are to believe these numbers, then the govt has undermined its own case for continued lockdowns.
But, if these new cases were discovered after testing, contact tracing, confirmed cases isolated, and contacts quarantined, then virus transmission has been disrupted and new cases will decrease dramatically.
We do not know what applies to Bimini because the government does not tell us anything. But if cases continue to rise, then we know the answer for ourselves. Then, to compound their egregious errors, they reopened the economy against all contrary advice. Possibly because the PLP was against the ill-advised reopening before proper protocols were put in place. Then the icing on the cake: allowing travel to known covid-19 hotspots and allowing monied supporters to come and go as they pleased. Recall the PM’s immortal words: “I don’t listen to Brave”.
Ironically, all of the powers required by the PM to address the issue would have inured to him by declaring an emergency under the Emergency Powers Act,1974 (EPA). This would of course have triggered a robust house debate, something which a person, who has already made up their mind, would seek to avoid. But, had he done so and had frank, wide-ranging discussions with all stakeholders, then I am sure that we would be in a better place today. A declaration under the EPA would have also addressed the constitutional issues which are now popping up.
It must be clear by now that lockdowns without testing, especially when citizens live in multi-generational homes, put the whole house at risk. If there is an infected person in close proximity all day long and the household has susceptible persons, exposure to infection is all but a certainty.
In addition, the 3-day shopping regime puts many more Bahamians at risk as they wait in long crowed lines then food shop in a packed store. The safer thing to do would be to let food stores (subject to robust safety protocols) open Monday to Saturdays until 8pm, restock as needed during these hours and deep clean on Sundays. After a week, lines would disappear, and citizens would be able to safely socially distance, as the stores are less full, making them less likely to be in prolonged contact with possibly infected persons.
The takeaway for Bahamian voters is this: This is an incompetent government which has destroyed our economy needlessly because it was too lazy to do the research and apply medical evidence to the problem. They are using the Police and Defence Forces as agents of oppression to the extent that they are going to Bahamians’ places of employment if a person is a suspected Covid contact. Bahamians stand in long lines like beggars awaiting NIB benefits 3 days a week when common sense dictates that NIB operations should operate 24/7 until the backlogs are cleared up.
The incompetence of the FNM administration at every level is stunning yet they say with a straight face that they are assisting us!
If this assistance means that we are buried in debt for generations to come and we do not benefit and we are saddled with the Coronavirus long after our tourism competitors are COVID free then no thanks, please.
Michael J. Brown