The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and Ministry of Health officials held a joint press conference on Thursday to update residents on preparations for Tropical Storm Isaias as well as to report on the status of the spread of COVID-19.
The press conference provided a true snapshot of exactly how unprepared The Bahamas has been for emergencies this year.
The prime minister addressed the press conference; he repeated information in the public domain concerning storm preparedness, but gave no new insight into the raging second wave of COVID-19 infections impacting the country.
The meteorological office’s presentation was almost immediately interrupted by a power cut. It then took ZNS 20 minutes to reconfigure its equipment to resume transmission.
The meteorological office provided information about the storm on its website.
The health team repeated previous advice that the dramatic increase in COVID-19 infections since July 8 was driven by the authorized foreign travel by a small number of residents who, through reckless social interactions, spread the infection on Grand Bahama and New Providence.
Thereafter, inter-island travel caused the resurgence of the disease on Bimini and its infiltration into Abaco, the Berry Islands, Cat Island and Exuma.
A query from a journalist revealed that the prime minister had left the building. No reason was given for his departure. His absence removed any opportunity for the media to question his politically-motivated, reckless decision to waive testing requirements for returning residents who had been outside of the country for less than 72 hours.
Fortunately, Isaias caused little serious damage.
Inexplicably, swaths of New Providence, including neighborhoods with underground powerlines, were plunged into darkness beginning on Friday evening.
Some neighborhoods regained electricity late afternoon on Saturday, but the Bahamas Power and Light blackout stretched into early Sunday morning for others.
The outages resulted in knock-on service outages for some telephone services as well as for cable television.
ZNS coverage of the storm was unimpressive. Throughout, unprofessional laughs about the pronunciation of the storm’s name distracted from their reports. Localized flooding occurred on most islands but information on its impact were better obtained from social media posts.
Extensive flooding on Grand Bahama escaped ZNS as well as NEMA and the meteorological office, which signaled the “all clear” for Grand Bahama, Bimini and the Berry Islands at 9 a.m. on Sunday as Grand Bahama was still being buffeted by tropical storm winds and downpours that had turned several of its neighborhoods into lakes.
Wisely, the minister responsible called on residents to disregard the advisory and to remain indoors.
The quality of information on COVID-19 infections deteriorated between May 4 and July 19 when the prime minister held responsibility for the health portfolio.
Testing was noticeably reduced and publication of details on travel history and contact tracing stopped by end-April, far ahead of the onset of the second wave of infections beginning on July 8.
Reports on hospitalizations and age and sex of patients also became irregular and reached a nadir on August 1 when new cases were reported without island references.
The daily record of new cases showed increases by more than fivefold, from 104 cases and 11 deaths on June 30 to 715 cases and 14 deaths on August 4.
These 611 new infections and three additional deaths officially attributed to COVID-19 are frighteningly worrisome.
A new national lockdown began at 10 p.m. yesterday. This is an opportunity for a reset of the national strategy to contain and reduce the spread of this dangerous disease.
This time, I strongly recommend the fair and balanced application of all anti-COVID-19 measures by the competent authority and the full compliance by the public.
— Concerned Bahamian