I was moved to write this letter after reading your editorial in yesterday morning’s newspaper.
There is one certainty about the COVID pandemic, that is that no one – not medical experts and scientists, not politicians, not journalists, not social media pundits nor ordinary Joe’s quick to offer their opinion as fact – know how this dreadful disease will progress and or end, if ever.
Governments have the obligation to acquaint themselves with all available information that bear on the public welfare and a further responsibility to devise plans and implement policies to reduce to the extent possible adverse impacts on the population. Accountable governments ensure that the people are continually informed on what it is doing in their name and on their behalf.
The last FNM administration, most particularly the former prime minister failed miserably to communicate what his government knew about the disease and its spread around The Bahamas.
Worse, decisions taken, and initiatives put in place to slow the spread of the virus were never adequately explained to the population who quickly got tired of restrictions of their civil liberties enforced by decree by an arrogant ‘competent authority’ empowered by Emergency Powers who was seemingly accountable to no one, least of all the large majority of Bahamians that swept his government into office in May 2017.
Given the chance to rid themselves of a baffling government early, those registered voters who chose to participate in the snap September general election voted for a change.
All this does not mean that every action taken by the prior administration in confronting the COVID-19 pandemic was wrong or ineffective and it does not mean that some initiatives employed by that government to fight the pandemic should never be contemplated in the future.
Draconian restrictions put in place by the Minnis government in March 2020 were similar if not identical to restrictions imposed around the world in both developed and developing countries in an effort to stop the spread of the virus.
These included shuttering most businesses, closing international and internal borders, and closing in-person school for children together with the litany of safe health protocols: face mask wearing, social distancing, frequent washing hands, and reducing the size of permitted gatherings. These became the near worldwide norm.
During the past two years, these restrictions have been varied in The Bahamas permitting the return of most economic activities and for a period of time permitting children in private schools though not government schools, to return to the classroom.
Indeed, a cardinal sin of the last government was its failure, during 20 plus months of school shutdowns, to ready government schools’ premises to receive students safely.
In most instances the relaxation of restrictions here aped relaxations around the world whether in Canada, Western Europe and most especially in the United States of America, our principal tourism market.
Relaxation of restrictions also followed on the development and availability of vaccines to fight new infections. The less than enthusiastic promotion of vaccinations among the population by the new Davis administration is especially disappointing notwithstanding promises made by the now governing PLP while hot on the campaign trail last year.
The relaxations, particularly in reopening the tourism industry and in relaxing restrictions on the size of permitted social and other gatherings, proved problematic giving rise to the second and then third lethal surges in COVID infections and resulting increased hospitalizations and deaths last summer and again last fall.
Notwithstanding optimistic guesstimates that the current fourth wave of infections, likely propelled by the more easily transmittable omicron variant, will prove less lethal, it would be silly to bank on that.
Far too many people are behaving as if the pandemic is over. And the government is so far taking too much of a hands-off approach in response.
Your editorial writer took umbrage with FNM Leader Michael Pintard’s advice that in the fight against COVID nothing should be taken off of the table. It claimed that “lockdowns, curfews and restriction thresholds based on positivity rates” are the FNM’s new “big idea” for fighting COVID.
This is a peculiar understanding of Pintard’s position.
Just days ago, he admitted in an interview with your paper that the former government, in which he served, may have gone too far with its draconian anti-COVID measures. He added however, that the present government’s almost laissez faire approach was not sending the right signal to the public that we remain in crisis.
I agree with Mr. Pintard.
We are most likely to be successful in fighting this virus and mitigating adverse fallout for the economy if restrictions and protocols are balanced and proportionate; neither draconian nor laissez faire.
– The Observer