Govt must ensure preconditions met before reopening economy, notes GPPI report
The Government and Public Policy Institute (GPPI) of the University of The Bahamas has submitted to the Cabinet recommendations on a systematic approach to reopening the economy in 12 phases, starting with a number of preconditions that would determine whether the country is in the position to reopen.
The report, entitled “A Framework for the Reopening of the Bahamian Economy”, outlines 13 preconditions the government must first ensure before reopening the economy, including the testing of all essential workers for COVID-19.
“By the nature of their occupations, essential workers enable a basic level of functioning of the country. Their continuing good health following the reopening is important. They must be tested and protected,” the GPPI report notes.
The framework calls for the government to ensure the provision of personal protective equipment (PPE) for all essential workers, the availability of PPE for the population, the establishment of transportation protocols, in particular for bus and taxi drivers; and the sanitization of public spaces frequented by members of the public.
Another precondition calls for mandated protocols for border screenings before the economy is reopened.
“As the nation will eventually open its borders, protective measures must be institutionalized to alleviate the potential spread of the coronavirus with the freedom of movement. Health experts can advise screening and response rules to put in place to minimize the risk of the spread of the virus through visitors to the country. Collaboration with airlines and cruise lines will be important in this regard,” the GPPI states in its framework.
Additional protocols called for include the establishment of person-to-person contact protocols; the establishment of guidelines and ordinances for organizations to sanitize their premises prior to hosting people; the capacity to conduct random testing alongside real-time, symptoms-driven testing; the capacity to conduct aggressive contact tracing; business support initiatives; and a plan for continuous healthcare system upgrades.
“As the number of cases of COVID-19 declines, there must be a commitment to improving the healthcare system to address new outbreaks of pandemics. Before a vaccine is available, future outbreaks of COVID-19 remain probable,” the report states.
The strategic framework contends that the economy will not be ready for reopening until the government implements those preconditions. Following their establishment, the GPPI recommends the sequential reopening of the economy, beginning with essential workers, the entire public sector and health sector, followed by the information technology and communications sector and the agriculture sector, the real estate and construction sectors, then transportation, financial services, law and accounting firms and related businesses, wholesale and retail trade and then finally the tourism sector.
“Enough time must exist between the reopening of various sectors to monitor the impact of the opening on COVID-19 resurgence. That interval should be adopted following advice from health experts,” the report states.
“This schedule of opening is by no means fixed. It merely represents a way to think through the process of reopening. The government’s own data and consultations with the private sector and broader society will best determine priorities. This framework merely calls for a strategic approach, an appropriately paced, phased reopening of the economy based on established preconditions to that reopening.”
Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis announced a five-phase reopening of the economy in the House of Assembly on Monday.
That approach starts with allowing delivery and curbside services and construction work in phase one, opening the Family Islands in phase two, opening businesses deemed non-essential in phase three, opening restaurants, cultural facilities, gyms, cinemas and entertainment facilities in phase four and finally reopening the borders for tourism in phase five.