Editorials

Dereliction and insensibility

Daily COVID-19 positivity rates, case numbers and hospitalizations point to an out-of-control spread of the virus in New Providence, with spikes on several other islands whose triggers have yet to be disclosed by government through its Ministry of Health.

Since the start of the third wave in March, as many as 94 confirmed COVID deaths have been reported, which represents just over one third of the country’s total confirmed deaths having occurred over a four-month period.

Monday’s positivity rate came in at 43 percent, and the day’s total of 83 hospitalized COVID patients has not been seen since late September, when the country’s devastating second wave was weeks away from charting 122 hospitalizations.

When 122 hospitalizations were reported on October 23, the country had a higher healthcare system capacity for COVID patients, and nine percent of hospitalized patients were in intensive care at that time.

As of Monday, 16 percent of hospitalized patients were in ICU, amidst a shortage of critical care nurses that is undoubtedly having a dangerous impact on the delivery of life-saving patient care for critically ill COVID and non-COVID patients.

Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis’ imprudent statement this week about there being “two pandemics” in The Bahamas, does not merit detailed response.

But his insistence that vaccination is the country’s only answer in the pandemic, while having only secured sufficient doses to fully vaccinate around 10 percent of adults thus far, speaks to inexpiable delinquency.

Officials close to the vaccination effort privately bemoan the government’s failure to capitalize early on opportunities to secure adequate supplies of COVID-19 vaccines.

As one regional example, Barbados’ early diplomatic outreach to India’s prime minister Narenda Modi, culminated in that country receiving the largest share — 100,000 doses — of India’s over half-million AstraZeneca doses donated to CARICOM countries.

Barbados, which has fully vaccinated close to 26 percent of its population, is also administering China’s Sinopharm vaccine.

Minnis’ incredulous announcement of his government’s desire to engage cruise ships to take Bahamians stateside to be vaccinated, is a plan riddled with unanswered questions.

It is also an embarrassing testament to the administration’s territorialism which has blocked private sector initiatives to secure vaccines, and to its laggard diplomatic approach to getting a leg up on worldwide demand.

Never shy of demonstrating a stubborn detachment from the facts, Health Minister Renward Wells yesterday incautiously blamed the country’s surge which has lasted for months, on Bahamians celebrating independence last week.

It is unsurprising that Wells would scapegoat the Bahamian people for the worsening third wave, since a highly probable contributor thereto lies squarely at the feet of the competent authority once again.

When in April the government announced a lifting of testing requirements for fully vaccinated travelers, we warned that this decision was putting The Bahamas, with its low vaccination rate, at untenable risk.

It was a warning also issued by senior healthcare professionals, since COVID vaccines do not stop infection or transmission.

Tourism is our number one industry, but government’s number one priority ought to be safeguarding the public and the country’s healthcare system.

International arrivals and domestic travel are on the increase, and many of our guests are observed not wearing masks or practicing social distancing.

Worldwide, COVID variants now account for the majority of all breakthrough cases in those who are fully vaccinated.

The Delta variant now accounts for 83 percent of new sequenced cases in the United States, and our largest tourism market of Florida is among states leading that country’s Delta variant surge.

In England, 46 percent of Delta variant deaths occurred in those fully vaccinated, according to Public Health England’s most recent technical briefing.

Israel’s prime minister Naftali Bennett said of the Pfizer vaccine’s effectiveness in his country’s Delta surge, “We do not know exactly to what degree the vaccine helps, but it is significantly less.”

It took two months for the impact of travel protocol changes last July to result in surges of daily cases at and in excess of 100.

Two months after this year’s protocol change, the country is now on a similar trajectory.

Refusing to learn from past deadly mistakes in this pandemic is not only insensible, but a gross dereliction of duty.

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