Wednesday, Jul 8, 2020
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An uninspiring national address

The prime minister gave an uninspiring address to the nation yesterday.

He told us nothing new, repeating information on COVID-19 contained in his wrap-up contribution to the 2020-2021 budget debate in the House of Assembly last Monday.

And, he used a national address to berate the opposition, a matter better left to political broadcasts provided for in legislation.

We have commented in this column that the prime minister had become giddy with power. It is now an obsession. He is a fan of enforcement rather than persuasion.

The prime minister confirmed that all systems remained “go” for the reopening of public beaches and parks on New Providence, Paradise Island, Grand Bahama and Bimini today, the last four islands where such areas had not been previously reopened, and for the return of tourists on July 1.

Excursions, tours and straw and craft markets are slated to resume later in the month.

He made no reference to the return of cruise lines, though the Ministry of Tourism announced that they will be welcomed beginning on July 1.

He advised that visitors and residents, including citizens who had been outside of the country for more than 72 hours, would have to produce a negative COVID-19 test taken not more than seven days (reduced from 10) before entry to The Bahamas.

And, he cautioned Bahamians against foreign travel except for emergencies because of recent spikes in COVID-19 infections in neighboring countries – presumably, the United States of America.

He announced that we had stopped community spread of the disease and warned us to continue to behave in a manner to prevent its return.

He made no comment on the continued decline in the number of COVID-19 tests being administered in the country.

And, he maintained the government’s three-month silence on how the disease was introduced into The Bahamas in the first place.

Having announced the end of community spread and the reopening of the economy, the prime minister did not tell us when the state of emergency will end, nor did he tell us when his curfew will end.

And, he did not tell us when the government will stop dictating hours of operations for private sector businesses.

He continues to admonish the public, like children, threatening that bad behavior when beaches reopen today could result in closed beaches for the independence holiday. And, he advised of the introduction of still another penalty for those found not wearing a face covering in public.

Startling reports of spikes in COVID-19 infections in Florida have prompted the closures of bars in its largest city, Miami. The governor of the state has abandoned his objection to the use of facial masks and, while not making their use mandatory, has begun to encourage residents of his state to don them.

Governors of other states experiencing spikes in COVID-19 cases, including Arizona, California, Georgia and Texas, have acknowledged that they may have reopened their economies too quickly, facilitating behaviors by residents and businesses that are now contributing to the COVID-19 infection spikes.

Some mayors of major cities in those states have acted ahead of their governors by imposing public health restrictions on residents.

It seems to us that in times of crisis, governments must be quick on their feet, able to absorb and respond swiftly to new and changing information and circumstances.

The spikes in infections and hospitalizations in the United States were not occurring and hence did not inform deci- sions by the government to begin the gradual reopening
of our economy to foreign visitors on June 15 and its full reopening to tourists on July 1.

While we are not tone deaf to calls from many in the private sector for the reopening of the economy, we are concerned that the planned reopening of the tourism sector now, in the midst of spiking infections in our principal tour- ism market, may place our citizens, residents and indeed economy, at serious risk.

We had hoped that the government would pause its plan for reopening to visitors on July 1.

Alas, that is not to be.

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