Addiction to emergency powers

Yesterday, the government published a new emergency order, the ninth such order.

In the order, the prime minister could not resist continuing his proclivity of reserving and or granting power unto himself.

Hence, the continued time restrictions on civil liberties at night defy both logic and science insofar as the spread of COVID-19 is concerned.

The delay in the opening of beaches and public parks is similarly unjustified. The prime minister’s comment that an earlier reopening would have caused swarms of people at beaches, begs the question, what will prevent such swarms one week later?

It is bad public policy that allows unfettered discretions which accommodate officials playing favorites with standards. The uneven application of waivers and exemptions in orders issued by the competent authority have plagued emergency orders since March. Still the practice continues.

Hair stylists, barbers and cosmetologists were permitted to reopen on June 14.

Gyms and spas will only be permitted to open come July.

All require special approval from the Ministry of Health.

That all of these facilities have been in operation, in some instances for decades prior to the pandemic in full compliance with health and business licences requirements, appears to escape the competent authority.

Restrictions placed on bus and taxi transportation are likely to frustrate rather than facilitate a resumption of economic life.

The mandated overnight curfew and reduced operating hours for business are crime not disease-fighting initiatives.

Preschools and infant daycare centres are permitted to open and must adhere to guidelines provided by the Ministry of Education OR the competent authority. Why not leave this to education?

Public servants must now report to work after an absence of three months. Those with comorbidities, like obesity, high blood pressure, cancer and diabetes, or otherwise compromised health are to be permitted to continue working from home.

The level of comorbidities among large segments of the public service will seriously impact the return of the public sector to full operation.

Domestic travel is to resume but remains subject to any notice or announcement that the competent authority may issue.

International travel is resuming and come July 1 visitors, Bahamian citizens, legal residents and homeowners who qualify for permanent residence (whatever that means) may be be landed.

A provision permitting travel outside of the country for up to 72 hours will not trigger a COVID-19 test on return but may result in quarantine also worries.

A review of the number of COVID-19 tests being undertaken in the country is also worrying.

Without explanation, it appears as if the level of testing for the disease has decreased significantly, especially since the prime minister assumed responsibility for health.

The Ministry of Health COVID-19 Dashboard reveals that days pass with no tests being taken, perhaps reflecting his preference for contact tracing to testing as a means to contain infections.

On June 14 and 15, the total COVID-19 tests administered stood at 2,285 on both days.

Again, June 18 and 19, the total tests administered stood at 2,326 on both days.

And again, on June 21 and 22, the number stood at 2,347 on both days.

The total number of COVID-19 tests administered between June 10 and 22 was 108.

When we compare testing in The Bahamas to testing in Barbados, a country of similar size to The Bahamas where some 7,530 tests have been completed, we see that they have tested at three times the level as The Bahamas.

The administration of the response to COVID-19 in The Bahamas has been illogical and marked by secrecy; more politically motivated than driven by public health concerns.

Power appears to be making the prime minister giddy.

We commend the words of the governor of New York Andrew Cuomo to our government: “Be accountable. Stand up… Tell the people the truth and trust them that, with the truth, they will do the right thing.”

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