A sombre prime minister read a brief message yesterday afternoon advising on the further reopening of segments of the economy beginning today.
He made no comment on the country’s progress in flattening the second wave of COVID-19 infections nor did he comment on the rising number of deaths attributed to the disease.
And, he gave no information on the timing of his major national economic address which he, last Monday, promised would be delivered “shortly”.
He advised that the minister of education would provide a report to the nation today at 3 p.m.
Parents will be anxious to hear from the minister. Schools throughout the country closed in mid-March, including on islands that remained free of a single COVID infection up to end-June.
Still parents remain uncertain when school will fully reopen, on which islands and whether virtually or in-classroom.
We have lived in the throes of a public health crisis since mid-March of this year.
This crippling crisis has locked us down in our homes nightly, continuously for five months and counting; paralyzed public administration and shuttered accessibility to many public services like death certificates or marriage licences. The operations of the Office of the Attorney General, the Registrar General’s Department and the courts are hovelled. ZNS is on life support.
Civil servants, other than the uniformed branches and other health professionals and essential workers providing health and medical care to the public including those determined to be essential workers by the heads of their ministry, are ordered to work from home. The same applies to utility providers and certain businesses, legal and financial services providers.
In the midst of this crisis, periodic press briefings regurgitate information on repairs, upgrades and expansion of healthcare facilities and on the status of COVID-19 spread, the latter available on the daily health dashboard.
These briefings have been highly structured sessions producing inadequate answers, with questions sometimes excused or simply deferred. Inadequate provision of forthright information on the virus continues to mar the record.
We now have confirmation that our healthcare and hospital systems are overwhelmed.
Testing remains inadequate – so, too, is contact tracing.
Assurances that backlogs in processing tests, contact tracing and imposition of quarantines of individuals testing positive and their contacts, are not convincing.
Promises that bed capacity is being expanded or is now increased continues to repeat advice given almost six months ago in March and April.
The authorities have inexplicably not bothered to reconvert space in the new Critical Care Block, originally designed and built to have more Intensive Care Unit (ICU) beds and “step-down” units but converted to administrative offices, into their intended usage.
Advice that the country has some 70-plus ventilators on hand without advice on the availability, training and or employment of ICU nurses to man them is not reassuring.
Yesterday, the prime minister continued his practice of addressing the public in settings that do not afford the media the opportunity to question him.
The biggest change in the delivery of yesterday’s “message” was the change in the demeanor of the prime minister.
While in the past he has appeared almost imperial in his decrees and admonitions to citizens, yesterday he looked and sounded almost chastened as he announced that beauticians, barbers and bus drivers could resume business and that restaurants at Arawak Cay and Potter’s Cay were to be included among restaurants permitted to offer takeaway services.
A change in demeanor of the prime minister does not engender an expectation that the incompetent leadership that has directed our COVID-19 response to date has turned a corner.