Where is the science?
Former U.S. President Barak Obama recently said: “More than anything, this pandemic has fully, finally torn back the curtain on the idea that so many of the folks in charge know what they’re doing.”
Here at home we have similar doubts.
We have been told ad nauseam that policies dictating the emergency regulations and orders are being guided by the science.
But many of those do not appear, to us, to be guided by science.
The overriding theme of the Bahamian COVID-19-fighting strategy is secrecy. This strategy does not protect the peace of mind of the population nor does it protect public health.
Ten weeks since our schools were closed, eight weeks since the imposition of 24-hour curfew and the closure of all Bahamians ports of entry to incoming passengers and seven weeks after the beginning of weekend lockdowns, there are now 96 confirmed cases of COVID-19.
We have one of the highest rates of infections and of deaths from COVID-19 in our region. And compared to Barbados, Bermuda, Cayman and Grenada, a lower test rate.
We still do not have a clear understanding of how or when the coronavirus made its entry into The Bahamas.
And we have no understanding as to how COVID-19 is spreading in communities in New Providence, Grand Bahama and Bimini.
Clearly, more testing, more effective tracing of contacts and more effective monitoring of self-isolated individuals are needed.
The science, we are told, suggests that only those displaying symptoms should be tested, and their contacts isolated and only tested if and when they develop symptoms.
Even with accelerated testing of Bimini residents, which begun after 12 additional positive cases were identified, there is no assurance that widespread testing is underway in Bimini to identify asymptomatic spreaders.
While testing for all residents of Cat Cay was undertaken immediately following the identification of a single infected patient on April 12, similar widespread testing did not take place on Bimini. The contacts of the first Bimini COVID-19 fatality were not tested. They self-isolated for 14 days.
The reason for this difference in treatment of Cat Cay residents’ verses Bimini residents has not been revealed to the public.
The overwhelming majority of Family Islands remain COVID-19 free.
A number of Family Island residents were “trapped” on New Providence and Grand Bahama when internal borders were also closed on March 27. Presumably, science dictated that they should not be tested and permitted to return home.
Suddenly, we are told that science now dictates that they may now return to their home islands but only if granted a COVID-19 Authorization Travel Card, which is only issued after an interview and evaluation by a Ministry of Health approved medical doctor and, if necessary, a COVID-19 test.
A week ago, the southernmost, least populated Family Islands were permitted to resume normal on-island commercial activity but schools remained closed.
Last evening, the prime minister added Cat Island, Long Island, Abaco and Andros to islands permitted to resume commercial activity subject to observing the 24-hour weekday curfew and weekend lockdown. It appears that schools on these islands will also remain closed.
Clearly, science allowed the purported breach of the order by some in South Eleuthera, a COVID-19 free island, to exclude it from also being allowed to resume normal commercial activity.
Whatever science informed these decisions and excluded other COVID-19 free Family Islands like the Berry Islands, Exuma, San Salvador, Eleuthera, Harbour Island and Spanish Wells was not explained.
People trapped on New Providence and Grand Bahama from those islands not released still can’t go home.
We also find it a peculiar science that, notwithstanding permitting a return to normal commercial activity and inter-island movement by boat or plane between named COVID-19-free Family Islands, the competent authority continues the closure of public beaches and parks, restricts commercial fishing and continues the 24-hour curfew from Monday through Friday and weekend shutdowns.
This almost suggests that the coronavirus is active on those islands but only during certain hours or on certain days.
Like the former American president, we are not convinced that the folks in charge know what they are doing.