Does govt understand implications  of decisions related to COVID-19?

Dear Editor,

Many were angered by the impromptu announcement by the government that there would be a ‘lockdown’ starting Wednesday April 8, 2020.

This triggered a hysterical rush to suppliers of essential items in contravention of the WHO guidelines the government purports to follow.

It was obvious to most that crowding, not social distancing, would have been the result.

That is why I was perturbed by a comment made by the prime minister in the dailies in the aftermath of the chaos.

He is reported as saying “… while driving to Cabinet this morning, I would have seen the food lines, the supermarket, I would have heard the frustrations of the Bahamian populace with respect to the food lines….

“I was floored by the fact that it did not seem to occur to a major decision maker what the most obvious consequence of his decision would be.

He had to see it in order to understand its implications? This is frightening! What other impactful decisions involving the lives of ordinary Bahamians are being made without the benefit of foresight one wonders?

The significance of this concern is that The Bahamas is a massive consumer and virtual non-producer of food.

It is important to consider that significant potential global supply chain disruptions can occur if the global effects of this coronavirus continues in the ensuing months.

Separate articles in Bloomberg News (March 2020) reported the fact that one of the world’s largest suppliers of wheat flour banned exports of that item along with several others food items, while Vietnam (a large producer of rice) is not accepting any new contracts for rice exports.

These countries have the foresight to want to ensure that they can feed their populations should things get a whole lot worse, and who can blame them?

If a person cannot see the obvious consequence of a simple decision, what confidence can we have that they have already considered the reality of more complex issues like a disruption in the global supply of rice, wheat flour, corn, et cetera – and what that could mean for this market in the medium to long term?

How can a plan be implemented to mitigate for a scenario that may not have been considered?

Do we even have a national stockpile of essential food items in the event of some catastrophic occurrence?

While people complained about there being no bread in stores due to panic buying, imagine not being able to import flour to make bread!

It is clear at this point that the government is not doing enough testing to confirm those who may have coronavirus and are capable of spreading it.

What is known is that some of those exposed to coronavirus may not develop any symptoms.

While the government focuses on testing for the disease, they also need to consider mass testing (preferably not with tests from China) for those who may have had the disease and have produced antibodies to it, because that would allow this group of people to return to work as they are no longer at threat of getting or spreading the disease, based on current understanding.

It is patently unfair for this category of persons to be confined to their homes, not working and subjected to the panic caused by erratic decision making if they have already had and cleared the infection and, based on current understanding, are unable to re-contract it.

Lastly, if we as a nation and as individuals have not allowed this current situation coupled with the effects of Hurricane Dorian to transform our perspectives regarding planning for potential disasters, saving for hard times, taking personal responsibility for our lives and families and raising the bar for what is expected from political leaders, then in truth when the next big one comes, we will be getting what we deserve.

The days for business as usual are over!

– JB

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