By Hon. Philip ‘Brave’ Davis, Q.C. M.P.
What on earth is happening behind closed doors in the Minnis administration?
Just a few short days ago, the Prime Minister held a press conference (for the first time in a long time, even though the country faces multiple urgent crises).
Had the Competent Authority already decided to change the nation’s COVID policies for visitors, announced many weeks earlier, for the 1 November reopening? If so, he should have said so during his press conference. Hotels and other tourism partners deserve full transparency and ample notice. Did he not have the courage or ability to defend the new policies to reporters?
In any case, as Bahamians readied themselves for the 1 November reopening based on previously announced policy changes, we had a surprise: the rules published yesterday, on the 30th of October, included none of these changes. The rules were exactly the same as before.
Phone lines were burning up yesterday with anger and confusion and a great deal of concern about the ineptitude of the government and the incompetence of the Competent Authority.
One day later, with the ink not even dry on yesterday’s regulations, they announce another set of rules. This time, testing on arrival is out the window, gone with the wind.
Governance requires certainty and a steady hand, not multiple reversals within several days.
We have a lot of concerns.
The first and most important is the health of the Bahamian people. The elimination of the rapid testing upon arrival in The Bahamas appears to remove an important protection. Rapid tests are not perfect. But catching some infections is surely better than catching none as visitors enter the country.
The US recorded a record 99,784 new COVID cases yesterday. This seems like a time to increase our vigilance.
We all want our tourism sector to open successfully. But the government has a responsibility to protect Bahamians who will interact with visitors. We know how quickly a few positive cases can turn into many more, especially in a country with a weak testing and isolation policy, which unfortunately describes The Bahamas right now.
We note that although the Minister of Tourism now apparently feels that rapid antigen tests are not warranted upon entry into The Bahamas, the requirement to take this same test on the 5th day will remain in place.
How does this make sense? Is the rapid antigen test a useful screening tool, in the government’s view, or not?
We note also that should a visitor taking this test on the 5th day tests positive, they are allowed to quarantine in place if asymptomatic. But asymptomatic individuals are still infectious. Where are the protocols and support for hotels to protect hotel staff?
Has the government stopped worrying about community spread, or the dangers to our doctors and nurses on the frontlines?
Trust is essential in a public health crisis, but this government inspires none.
The PLP is not alone in our concerns. A senior executive of Sandals Resorts admitted this week that one reason Sandals is not open in Exuma is uncertainty about the direction of the Minnis government’s COVID policies. Please note that Sandals Resorts are open in many other countries right now.
How can this country succeed, if the Government is known as an unreliable partner?
The incompetence of the Competent Authority is no small thing.
His incompetence is delaying the start of our economic recovery.
And his incompetence puts the health of Bahamians at risk.
It’s hard to get more serious than that.