A race to the bottom

There was a time when Bahamians were proud to hold up statistics demonstrating the country’s prowess in the region.

The Bahamas was among the top three per capita income earners in the Americas; had the largest tourism sector in CARICOM; was considered the premier warm weather destination in the hemisphere, if not the world; while also serving as the trailblazer host to the hemisphere’s oldest offshore international financial services center.

We claimed to be preciously close to attaining all of the eight millennium development goals:

To achieve universal primary education — done.

To reduce child mortality — done.

To improve maternal health — done.

To eradicate extreme poverty and hunger – done.

To combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases — done.

To ensure environmental sustainability – diligently working to close the gaps.

To promote gender equality and empower women – done save and except for a pesky, stubborn refusal to amend the constitution regarding transfer of nationality by women; and

To develop a global partnership for development – active participant in every global initiative toward this end.

We managed the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic well. All but three islands remained COVID-19-free up to July 1.

We have now entered our sixth month of life in the time of COVID-19 guided by multiple Emergency Powers COVID-19 Pandemic Orders, amendment orders, national addresses, press briefings and press releases that foreshadow still additional amendment emergency orders and directives. There is daily confusion as to what is allowed behavior, on which islands, on which days and between which hours.

With fewer than half a million total population, The Bahamas has more COVID-19-positive infections and more related deaths than do Jamaica, with three million total population, or New Zealand, with five million.

On July 31, normal business was restored and travel permitted without the need for a medical visa on and between Mayaguana, Inagua, Crooked Island, Acklins and Long Cay.

In August, Long Island, Chub Cay (in the Berries), Rum Cay and Ragged Island were added to the exempted islands. Then, Spanish Wells was added.

Harbour Island and San Salvador, which have not recorded a single case of COVID-19 up to Saturday, August 22, have not been permitted to return to normal business hours.

Other islands with infections — Acklins (five cases) and Crooked Island (two cases) — are now subjected to the provisions as outlined in the latest emergency order, including a 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew.

Andros, with a single COVID-19 case, is under curfew but Chub Cay in the Berry Islands is exempted notwithstanding 15 COVID-19 cases in that island chain.

And this, even as the daily rate of infections continues to climb, hospitalizations mount beyond the capacity of the public health system, the number of lives lost rises and the number of COVID-19-free islands dwindle.

Our race is no longer to the top. We are in quick descent to the bottom.

The competent authority needs to take note.

On the floor of the House of Assembly, he said that opening and closing the economy was not sustainable, yet that is the model he continues to implement.

He also assured that ample supplies of PPE were available to protect all frontline workers, but many continue to contract COVID-19.

Whatever the modus operandi, it is not working.

This is not the time for political one-upmanship or for pontifications from armchair experts with no record of success. Political grandstanding and or misuse of statistics to disguise the seriousness of this virus will not help us out of this crisis.

There are numerous individuals in society with many years of experience in public health and hospital administration. It is time that a wider circle of these are tapped for recommendations on confronting this once-in-a-century crisis. 

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