Noting that cases are still increasing at an “exponential rate”, Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Senator Dr. Michael Darville said yesterday The Bahamas must shift gears immediately as it relates to its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“With daily positive cases in excess of 110, we must now question the effectiveness of the current health protocols and shift gears immediately,” he said as the Senate debated a resolution to extend the state of emergency to November 30.
“The competent authority must shift gears immediately in order to flatten the curve and break this deadly chain of community spread. If this is not done, we believe the current pattern of spread will continue, creating a vicious cycle and putting all of us at unnecessary risk.”
The resolution was passed in the Senate.
Darville said, “Unfortunately, months after curfew, lockdowns, the person-to-person transmission of COVID appear to be increasing at an exponential rate.
“It is time to reset the button and look for new treatment modalities and protocols.”
Darville said it appears that the government appears to have given up.
“The government’s stewardship in finding the right balance between commerce, lockdowns, curfews and the welfare of our citizens has fallen short of our expectations. And it appears as if this administration has run out of fresh ideas or simply given up in the fight.”
As of Monday, there were 6,502 confirmed COVID cases in The Bahamas.
Over the last seven months, there have been numerous lockdowns, curfews and other restrictive measures to fight COVID-19 in the country. More stringent measures were recently implemented on New Providence and Abaco in an effort to stem the spread of the virus.
But high case numbers continue to be recorded on a daily basis.
After weeks of seeing low case numbers, Grand Bahama appears to have seen a recent spike, confirming 65 cases in the past week.
Darville said the PLP COVID -19 task force is particularly concerned about rising cases there, as well as on Abaco and Eleuthera.
“The spikes of new cases in Freeport, Abaco and Eleuthera is cause for great concern in our task force and we believe closer attention needs to be placed in these islands, more resources need to be pushed into the islands, more contact tracers and the execution of free testing particularly in the hotspots on these islands.”
Darville also questioned whether it is wise to lift quarantine requirements for those entering The Bahamas when cases continue to rise locally.
“In the midst of having 100-plus cases per day, we are now going to eliminate the quarantine requirements for visitors and returning residents,” he said, referring to the relaxation of quarantine restrictions for incoming visitors, which is set to take effect November 1.
“We on this side, we do support any well-thought-out plan if we could see it. The Ministry of Tourism presented a plan, so we had the ability to comment on the plan that would jumpstart the local tourism product and get Bahamians back to work in the industry.
“…We are not unreasonable on this side. If we can see a plan, we can comment on the plan and we can help to improve the plan. But the plan must be safe and all risk minimized. Much has been said about the Ministry of Tourism plan. And the big question that I ask the competent authority today is, are we ready?
“…Are the testing booths set up at our ports of entry for rapid antigen tests? Do we have the trained manpower resources or personnel at our international airports and marinas?”
Darville also questioned if the antigen tests were FDA-approved, what will happen to visitors who test positive after arriving in The Bahamas, and whether hotel workers will be tested regularly.
He accused Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis of acting “dictatorially” in his role as the competent authority.
“The measures needed to navigate us out of this crisis are broad as they are diverse,” he said.
“Over the last seven months, the competent authority has displayed, in my view and the view of many citizens of this country, dictatorial traits and refuses to be accessible and transparent to this Parliament and the Bahamian people.”
He added, “The competent authority must take his head out of the sand, become focused and do away with many of the failed policies and protocols that are obviously not working on the ground.
“We have to press the button and reset where we’re going.”
Darville called for Minnis to present a 30-day plan.
“Lay on the table your 30-day plan to address the issues associated with COVID-19 in the month of November,” he said.