NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Opposition leader Phillip Brave Davis yesterday suggested the government is not managing the crisis effectively, noting the government’s response has been Nassau-centric.
“The Bahamian people are hurting,” Davis said.
“They are worried that temporary layoffs will become permanent. They are afraid that the same government that has asked business owners to have a heart may not have a heart of its own. They want some reassurance that the government has their back.
He continued: “The country is bracing for severe economic decline. The Bahamian people need more than strict lockdowns and stern press conferences to survive.
“The people want to see a plan for widespread testing. They want to see new protections for healthcare workers. They want to see a comprehensive recovery and reopening strategy.”
The House of Assembly passed a resolution to extend the state of emergency to May 30, with the Official Opposition MPs abstaining from the vote yesterday.
The state of emergency features the continuation of weekend lockdowns and a 24-hour curfew.
Davis’ concerns were also echoed by PLP Deputy Leader Exuma and Ragged Island MP Chester Cooper, who noted the government was extending the emergency order without any definitive plan on how to navigate the crisis.
Cooper said he generally supported the 24-hour curfew and weekend lockdowns on weekends; however, he felt it was applied too broadly throughout the entire country.
“While I don’t support opening Exuma to domestic and international travel, I do not understand why, after more than a month, Exuma continues to be on lockdown when there have been no cases of COVID-19 on the island, and no one there has yet to display any symptoms,” Cooper said.
“There are many businesses that can reopen with social distancing being practiced.”
In Parliament, Davis said that despite the emergency orders being implemented since March, the country continues to see more deaths and cases.
“We are continuing to see an increase in both cases and deaths, despite the drastic measures we have asked our people to take,” Davis said.
“So, as we consider this extension to the emergency orders, the government has no higher obligation than to level with us about how things stand today, how they expect the next weeks and months to unfold, and when people can expect some light at the end of this tunnel.
“It is because I care so deeply that I offer today’s thoughts and concerns. Mr. Speaker, lives are on hold. People’s ability to earn a living is on hold. Things are falling apart for a great many people.
“No one should pretend that another week of lockdowns would somehow rid us of this virus, nor should the public, nearly all of whom are complying with new restrictions, be chastised and blamed for the continued spread.”
Davis added that he feels the country still “lacks a coherent strategy for mass testing”, a major factor in trying to slow the spread of the virus.
“The truth that is owed to our people is that our country still lacks a coherent strategy for mass testing – a crucial component for combating the spread of the virus,” he said.
“Since we know that the virus can be spread even by people who have no symptoms, we need testing to include them in order to stop the virus in its tracks.
“We need new resources and venues for isolating positive cases, we need additional personnel for contact tracing, and we need to be sure that our clinics and hospitals are ready for any surge in cases.
“Bahamians have the right to ask their government to plan for more than a week or two at a time.”
Davis also questioned how the government will protect the public as the economy reopens, especially high risk groups like the elderly, and people with high blood pressure and diabetics.
Prior to Davis’ contribution in the house, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis announced the government’s COVID-19 Coordinating Committee had drafted plans to gradually re-open the Bahamian economy in five phases.
The phased reopening of the economy calls for a restarting of tourism and reopening of the country’s borders in the fifth and final phase.
“Essential workers are on the frontlines risking their lives to ensure that our country continues to function throughout this period,” Davis said.
“While it is important to honour and applaud them for their work, it is even more important to protect them. Too many of our medical personnel are falling ill.
“We must pull out all the stops to immediately prioritize their safety – there should be no expense spared to ensure that our frontline fighters are safe in this battle.”
For his part, Cooper also noted he has not heard any medical justification for keeping schools closed on islands without infected cases.
Cooper said: “The Nassau-centric attitude of governing The Bahamas has carried over into the managing of the Coronavirus crisis. I note that the recent economic recovery committee has not a single Family Island representative on it. How insulting and unfortunate.
“For Nassauvians to pretend to know what is good for communities they are not a part of is part of the reason the Family Islands are so underdeveloped as it stands.”
“They deserve to be around the table, not just forwarding ideas to people who don’t understand the underlying concerns,” he said.
While I agree on many points made, what are Mr. Davis and Cooper’s recommendations? Given the thought into the problem areas, hopefully there’s further thoughts into what can be done to help resolve them.