Collapsing trust

Both Grand Bahama and Bimini have for more than 14 days remained without detection of a new COVID-19 case.

New Providence’s eight-day non-COVID-19 detection record for the disease was broken on Saturday.

The prime minister told The Tribune some weeks ago that he had canceled a visit to Grand Bahama to inspect repairs underway to restore the hurricane-damaged Rand Memorial Hospital because the health team advised him of pockets of the infection that might exist on that island.

We wonder what advice the health team gave the prime minister about pockets on New Providence where 81 out of 103 cases have been detected. And, we wonder what advice they might now give to residents regarding the risk of living on New Providence where we might walk into a “pocket of the disease” at any time.

A columnist in the British Guardian newspaper on May 29 wrote that any pretense that the COVID-19 lockdown response in his country was being led by “the science” was always rubbish regardless of its original laudatory aim. He noted that policy variations for different regions make it clearer that the differences were the result of politics, not science.

We hold similar views about COVID-19 curfew and lockdown orders here that never considered the dramatically different conditions present on the Family Islands as opposed to New Providence, Grand Bahama and Bimini or between the latter two islands and the capital city.

The pointless political distinctions made on the timing of the reopening of Family Islands to normal commercial activity made the point crystal clear.

COVID-19-free Family Islands whose borders were closed to all, were not permitted to open their businesses, fish except with one other family member, visit each other’s homes, move between settlements, visit a beach or public park and further, were made to observe national curfew and lockdown orders.

Similar uneven policy directives on which restaurants could offer takeout and delivery services, which retail outlets could sell alcohol and who might fish and under what conditions put the lie to anti-COVID-19 policies being science-based.

Faced with serious economic recession, The Bahamas, like most countries in our region and around the world, is coming to the realization that in the future it will have to live with and adapt to COVID-19.

This has resulted in our rapid progression through phases two through four of the planned five-phased reopening of the economy. Now we may worship in church and return to our businesses and offices though the public service remains mainly closed.

Effective June 15, spas, barbers and hair salons may reopen but only after specific training and certification by the Ministry of Health.

Such training was not required for those engaged in the retail sale of foods, including cooked and uncooked foodstuff in retail food stores or in restaurants offering takeout and delivery of cooked meals.

Last week, the minister of tourism announced the reopening of our borders to “private aviation, boaters and yachters” beginning on June 15, and to international and national commercial air carriers on July 1.

Hotels and vacation rentals and transportation by taxi and buses are also to resume on July 1.

Subsequently, the prime minister assured the media that the same pre-entry testing requirement would apply to Bahamians, residents and visitors.

The opening up to tourists was announced while thousands of Family Islanders remain stranded on New Providence after internal borders closed on March 27.

While internal borders are set to open this morning, travel continues to be hampered by multiple changing conditions, the most recent of which require the completion of two travel questionnaires – one for health and another for immigration.

Testing for COVID-19 for tourists before gaining entry to The Bahamas is neither doable nor sustainable.

Something will have to give; either practical and doable suggestions or the dogmatic and impractical edict of the prime minister.

The UK columnist reminded his readers that democracy requires a continuing contract in which the state receives the trust of the people by trusting them in turn, not enslaving them.

Trust, he notes, is delicate; insulted, it collapses. We agree. 

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