The success The Bahamas has battling the novel coronavirus will ultimately rest on buy-in from the public.
No matter how many emergency orders are issued, if the public does not follow them, the number of COVID-19 cases would likely continue to rise.
But buy-in from the public requires confidence — confidence that the competent authority is basing his decisions on science, not other concerns.
However, it is difficult to place confidence in the authority when haphazard and callous things are done supposedly in the public interest.
The prime minister announced on Sunday that Grand Bahama would go under reduced curfew as of Monday at 7 p.m. and its domestic and international borders would close on Wednesday.
He also announced that, if efforts to decrease the number of cases were unsuccessful, then Grand Bahama could face a lockdown on Friday.
This, predictably, caused a run on food and supply stores with people unsure of what was to come.
The following day, the number of cases on Grand Bahama shot up dramatically.
Apparently, the prime minister had seen enough.
Outside the Churchill Building on Tuesday, he announced that not only would Grand Bahama go on a two-week lockdown starting Thursday, but that its domestic border would close in less than eight hours.
This not only prompted full on panic buying, but also a rush to the island’s border, as hundreds attempted to leave for New Providence and others scrambled to leave New Providence for Grand Bahama.
This was to be expected.
What was not expected or announced was that passengers on flights coming to New Providence from Grand Bahama and elsewhere after 6 p.m. would be subject to forced government quarantine upon arrival.
When news of this surfaced, we asked both Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr. Delon Brennen and Commissioner of Police Paul Rolle under whose orders were Bahamian citizens and other travelers being forcibly detained without prior notice.
Both remarked that it was under orders from the Cabinet Office.
It was a shameful sight to behold and a shameful report to hear of the treatment of those detained against their will.
It represented a rank abuse of the power reposed in the competent authority through the state of emergency.
The prime minister rightly apologized for the stress and duress caused by the sporadic quarantine.
Having passengers returning from COVID-19 hotspots quarantine is a sound idea.
Not telling them until they arrive that quarantine at a government facility will be required is an outrage.
Some may think we are being overly critical of the prime minister’s actions during this pandemic.
We think not.
Who will speak truth to power and hold those in power accountable in this country if not a free press?
We remind the competent authority that he is only bringing his own competence into question with the public with his chaotic and ill-thought-out actions.
If people are to repose confidence in him, then his actions must seem to make sense.
The degree to which he continues to make poor decisions is the degree to which public confidence in him will wane.
The same can be said of our medical officials.
While we applaud their hard work under the most difficult circumstances, confidence in the Ministry of Health’s ability to effectively collate and communicate data is growing tenuous of late.
Of the 115 new cases of COVID-19 announced since July 8, the Ministry of Health has confirmed that two people from Inagua have a history of travel; three people from Grand Bahama have a history of travel; and nine people from New Providence have a history of travel.
We are told that 21 people have no history of travel.
The history of travel of 80 of the cases is unknown.
Details for almost all these people other than island of residence is unknown.
Details on most of the 13 new hospitalizations are unknown.
We have no idea where any of these people traveled or where all of them are hospitalized.
And we have no confirmation whether any of these Bahamians came into contact with tourists who may have imported the virus.
We have no confirmation that the outbreak began with a returning Bahamian.
No tourist who arrived since the border fully re-opened has been confirmed as testing positive for COVID-19 in this country.
Therefore, we do not understand the medical rationale for barring them from traveling here on commercial flights.
There has also been no indication as to how 1,000 tests were supposedly processed in one day earlier this week and who is being tested.
Additionally, with the exception of yesterday, the Ministry of Health’s daily dashboard is being released later as the information is becoming more opaque.
This has all coincided with the departure of Dr. Merciline Dahl-Regis, though we cannot say if that is the cause of the recent dearth of detail.
Hopefully, when the new minister makes his public address today, as promised by the prime minster, he will reassure the public that thorough communication is still priority during the pandemic and re-instill the confidence that is so critical in this fight.