Thursday, Apr 2, 2020
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The new normal

The world as we know it appears to be changing inexorably every day of late.

We are now in a new normal, and, understandably, many are struggling to adjust.

Since the coronavirus pandemic ensnared the globe in its tentacles earlier this year, much of what we have come to expect as normal, everyday life, has been upended.

In a national address yesterday evening, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis outlined additional emergency measures effective 9 a.m. today that end 9 a.m. March 31.

In an unprecedented move, the prime minister ordered that the country observe a 24-hour curfew.

Members of the public, except those who work for exempt businesses and essential services, are ordered to remain in their houses, inclusive of their yards.

Only essential travel to the doctor, grocery store, bank, pharmacy or to refuel will be permitted.

Outdoor exercise is only allowed between 5 a.m. and 9 p.m.

All beaches were ordered closed.

Commercial activity at docks and the Fish Fry at Arawak Cay and occasional markets is banned.

All airports, including private ones, and fixed-base operations were ordered closed to international flights carrying visitors.

No visitor is allowed to enter or disembark, even for the purposes of transmitting through The Bahamas.

Motor vehicles and motorcycles are prohibited from public or private roads.

Those are just a few of the new measures taken.

To date, there have been four confirmed cases of COVID-19 in The Bahamas.

The orders are deemed necessary by the government to stop the spread and keep the numbers low to avoid crippling our health care system as has been seen in other countries.

The first order, which took effect last Friday, clearly did not have the desired effect on social distancing.

Large beach parties were thrown over the weekend; many had private house parties in direct contravention of the repeated advice of medical professionals.

Bahamians were given an opportunity to voluntarily practice discipline in being asked to stay home as much as possible.

Now the innocent majority will have to suffer with the guilty few.

The prime minister’s new orders are drastic, to be sure.

They will further fundamentally change the way we live, and the extent to which they are fully enforceable remains to be seen.

But they are only expected to last a week; after which, we expect our freedom of movement and association will return to something resembling normalcy.

But Bahamians should be prepared for life to continue fundamentally changing for months to come.

Since Friday, thousands of Bahamians lost their jobs.

Tourism has come to a screeching halt as countries have imposed travel restrictions.

The stoppage of international arrivals means it will now flatline.

Many more layoffs and pay cuts for workers sent home during the order should be expected.

The Central Bank of The Bahamas is warning of a large falloff in foreign reserves, which support our U.S. dollar parity.

In a paper released this week, the Inter-American Development Bank modeled that in a worst-case scenario, The Bahamas could lose 26 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) in 2020.

The government has put in place social and unemployment assistance, as well as $20 million in loans for businesses to try and stay open.

But it will not be enough to save everyone.

The near-term impact of this will be severe.

The Ministry of Finance has already predicted a recession due to the economic impact of Hurricane Dorian.

The United States economy is expected to experience a depression, as the result of production and consumption slowdowns due to business closures, loss in market value for large companies and consequential layoffs.

We will not escape the effects of that.

This is new territory for The Bahamas and, indeed, the world.

Bahamian families should now be seriously considering their plans for the future.

There will, no doubt, be tough times ahead.

Tough decisions will have to be made.

Bitter pills will have to be swallowed.

But we can lessen the impact of the blow if we come together rather than pull each other apart.

“Compassion has not been canceled,” the prime minister aptly noted last night. “Generosity has not been canceled. Gratitude has not been canceled. Hope has not been canceled. Nor have resilience and courage and the spirit of The Bahamian people. None of these have been canceled. Moreover, they are in abundant supply and can never run out.

“We will win this battle through courage, through generosity of spirit and with a resilience that no hurricane, no virus, no economic threat and no enemy can defeat.”

It may look and feel like the world is ending, but it is not.

It is only changing.

The human race will survive this.

The Bahamas will survive this.

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