Living with COVID-19

Nearing the end of a two-week lockdown, new COVID-19 infections on New Providence increased by 405 as of yesterday.

While new cases on Grand Bahama appear to be leveling off, new cases are appearing on the Family Islands for the first time, with troubling numbers on Abaco, Bimini and on the Berry Islands.

Total active cases nationwide stand at 1,105.

The government fumbled the reopening of the economy on July 1. And, in recent times, it has mismanaged our response to COVID-19.

It is time to own up to it and take immediate steps to stop the horrendous increase in new infections.

On Friday past, the Ministry of Health’s COVID-19 team indicated that there were some 800 unprocessed COVID-19 tests and contact tracing cases accounting for the recent large increases in positive results.

We understand that of COVID-19 tests processed, there is a 20 percent positivity rate.

We are alarmed that scores of individuals who tested positive remained unaware of their results because they were not contacted in a timely manner.

We also believe that many individuals tested and awaiting results, disregard advice to self-quarantine.

And, as occurs elsewhere, we understand that many COVID-19-positive individuals are not forthcoming with their contacts, leaving additional hundreds at risk.

Already, a number of government offices and agencies have been closed for deep cleaning following positive COVID-19 tests among their staff members.

Some headway is being made in expanding health facilities to cope with the pandemic, but bed shortages remain a concern as several medical wards in government hospitals were compromised by COVID-19 exposures.

A significant percentage of individuals testing positive are frontline workers in the fight against the disease, medical staff members and uniformed officers.

Yesterday, we learned that the leader of the opposition and an opposition senator both tested positive for the disease.

Also yesterday, the World Health Organization cautioned against national shutdowns to prevent the spread of the disease, recommending instead “tailored, specific localized” approaches to contain and treat sites of new outbreaks.

Recordings and videos on social media indicate that far too many Bahamians disregard the seriousness of this second wave of COVID-19 infections. Even with allowances for quarantine and curfew fatigue, the refusal of so many to stay off the roads and in their homes is inexcusable.

Once again, we call upon the government to be more forthcoming and truthful with the Bahamian people. Armed with information on where the majority of infections are spreading, whether at workplaces, food stores, restaurants, churches or social gatherings, we believe behaviors will change without resort to threats.

We support the continuation of restrictions on businesses and social and religious gatherings on New Providence to facilitate clearing backlogs in testing and contact tracing. Present circumstances fully warrant it. Though some anxieties could be alleviated if insurance premiums could be paid in person.

We also believe that long lines at food stores, pharmacies and banks, where social distancing is seldom observed, contribute to the spread of the disease. Recently, individuals waiting in a food store line overheard a shopper explain that he had just three days left in quarantine!

The government might consider remedying long lines by extending, not curtailing, shopping hours. Essential workers’ shopping days could be eliminated and permitted businesses allowed to operate as customer demand requires on three days of the week.

Thereafter, we recommend exponential increases in testing and contact tracing, rigorous monitoring of quarantine, strict enforcement of wearing masks in public and temperature checks and social distancing enforced at all operating businesses.

We are still in the middle of summer, the hurricane season, when economic activity is typically slow, especially in the tourism sector.

While we hear and sympathize with businesses that fear the economic impact of continued restrictions on business operations, we believe that it is in our national interest that we take the bitter medicine now rather than suffer an even greater protracted economic fallout later.

After all, we must live with COVID-19.

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