NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Emergency measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 on Exuma were “unduly harsh” and caused “chaos and confusion”, the island’s member of Parliament stated yesterday.
Exumas and Ragged Island MP and Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Deputy Leader Chester Cooper said: “We saw that when the prime minister made the announcement of tighter restrictions on Exuma, the number of cases was already trending down. Now, perhaps that was due to a lack of testing on the island, or a backlog in getting results.
“What we were experiencing on the mainland was being swabbed on the island and waiting numerous days and sometimes weeks for the results to come back from New Providence.
“What we hoped was those who were symptomatic would remain in isolation to prevent community spread, which might have been the case in some instances.”
Cooper noted that his team arranged with the clinic responsible for administering the rapid antigen tests for tourists who stay past five days, to test anyone on Exuma who wished to be tested.
“I am sometimes so confused by the behavior of some in government,” said Cooper during his contribution to the debate on the extension of the state of emergency.
“We always talk about the thrust to not make things partisan. The prime minister alluded that it was dangerous to make the rapid antigen tests available for free to the public if health officials are not doing it.
“But these tests are available at the clinic today, as approved by the government, for anyone who would wish to pay for them. The same tests are available on New Providence right now, as approved by the Ministry of Health, for anyone who would wish to pay for it. All we did on Exuma was provide payment for the tests that anyone can go and get right now.”
Cooper said he did not think it was wise to close all restaurants connected to bars, stop in-person learning or lock everything down on weekends.
“Likewise, the suspension of domestic travel with a PCR test, whilst international travel remains unrestricted, was most confusing to the residents of Exuma. It hurt businesses too much; put too much strain on families to adjust too quickly,“ said Cooper.
Earlier this month, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis announced new emergency measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19 on Exuma, namely the introduction of a 24-hour weekend curfew and the restriction of all domestic travel from the island. At the time, the island had 28 active COVID-19 cases.
Cooper told Parliament yesterday that the opposition does not support the extension of the state of emergency.
“This is madness,” he said.
“This is causing chaos, confusion and unnecessary suffering. We’ve been going at this for far too long now. We should legislate the measures we think are best and pass them into law.
“The attorney general says his office is drafting legislation to do just that. Sadly, it is taking too long and the constant states of emergency and ever-shifting emergency orders are fraying the already stressed nerves of Bahamians, the credibility of our country and confidence of our economy.”
Cooper acknowledged that COVID-19 is a dangerous and potentially deadly disease, noting that strategies in dealing with the virus should shift as more is learned about it.
“You will never hear me doubt that,” he added.
“We have learned more about how COVID-19 works, who is most impacted, how to protect ourselves, how to treat those infected in the past 11 months. As we learn more, we should shift our strategies. The same remedies that we applied here eight months ago are not all necessary now.”