Beyond lockdowns

The competent authority and officials from the Ministry of Health have clearly grown weary of lockdowns as a strategy to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Unfortunately, the novel coronavirus has not yet grown weary of us.

It is raging in The Bahamas, with New Providence being its epicenter.

Lockdowns are, as they say, a blunt instrument, a tool lacking finesse in their design or any particular skill in the wielding of them.

They drive down the rise in infections by doing what most people normally would not – halting social activity to stay away from each other.

However, the effects are deleterious.

They also halt much of a country’s economic activity and create myriad social and emotional challenges.

Having tried them with some success during the first wave, and questionable success during the second wave, it is now time to plot the best course forward – for the country, as well as for individual islands.

Chief Medical Officer Dr. Pearl McMillan said at a Ministry of Health press conference yesterday that the numbers now indicate a downward trend in infections on New Providence over the past week.

A recent flattening of the curve on New Providence certainly makes a case for the easing of lockdown restrictions on New Providence had that not already been done.

The data given on Grand Bahama is certainly encouraging with a clear flattening of the curve occurring there since earlier in August.

It is arguable whether the extended lockdown of Grand Bahama, which started in July, was the major contributing factor to this, given that there was still movement allowed to gather essential items and to continue rebuilding post-Dorian, as well as to undergo storm preparation.

Eleuthera has experienced a flattening of the curve as well, with a recent spike of three cases over two days appearing to be more of an aberration, and not an indication of community spread.

We learned yesterday that, as of Sunday, Harbour Island has no reported cases. Spanish Wells has had one reported case that has since recovered. Mainland North Eleuthera, which encompasses The Bluff and Upper Bogue as well as Lower Bogue, has had no reported cases. Central Eleuthera has eight reported cases of COVID.

South Eleuthera, where there has been a spike of three cases over the past week, appears to have a cluster in the Wemyss Bight area, according to health officials.

Given that the prime minister has said that locking down certain limited areas may be the way forward, some consideration should be given to isolating that southern cluster, as well as isolating North Eleuthera from Central and South Eleuthera.

Exuma and Bimini have seen a flattened curve of late; Bimini having undergone a drastic lockdown that appears to have served its purpose.

Therefore, outside New Providence, the data indicates that the need for further widespread lockdowns and tightening of restrictions is no longer necessary.

“We would have had a number of lockdowns, we had curfews, we had a number of very restrictive to minimally restrictive measures put in place early on and we did fairly well,” McMillan said yesterday.

“Doing those things indefinitely is not sustainable. So, we have to balance the public health measures alongside the economic and the social challenges that come along with the lockdowns.”

McMillan’s position is sound.

We can open things in a coordinated fashion, but we dare not drop our guard.

COVID-19 is killing adult Bahamians.

And it is doing so indiscriminately.

Youth will not necessarily protect you.

During the first wave, no one under the age of 40 died from COVID-19.

Even though the mortality rate was alarmingly above 13 percent, the demographics of those who succumbed to the disease, mainly older Bahamians with comorbidities, perhaps lulled some into a false sense of security.

The second wave has demonstrated the folly in that.

The numbers revealed at yesterday’s press conference show that 11 percent of those who died from COVID-19 in the second wave were under the age of 40.

Though the death rate for COVID-19 is around 2.2 percent during the second wave, the disease is still highly infectious and can be a debilitating experience one would not wish on anyone.

Bahamians must adhere to the health protocols if we are to experience success in this fight that we are clearly in for the long haul.

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