The Medical Association of The Bahamas yesterday expressed grave concern with the political events being held in the lead-up to the September 16 general election.
In a statement, the association said, “The country is experiencing rapid escalation in the number of individuals becoming COVID-19-positive, needing hospitalization and of persons dying due to this devastating illness. These gatherings in the past have been observed as super spreader events.
“We look at data collected from countries in our region that have held elections during the pandemic and demonstrated a jump in cases post-election, due to exposure during election campaigns. Our healthcare facilities are swamped and we are losing medical persons exposed to this deadly virus, including physicians.
“If this trend continues, we will need to expand capacity for the probable increase in cases that will result from our inability to consistently enforce COVID-19 protocols during the campaign season.”
The Medical Association called on the relevant authorities to enforce campaigning protocols.
The association said the observation of health protocols will save lives and protect the population.
“This is absolutely no time to let our guard down or ignore the intensity of this pandemic by participating in such careless behavior that put our lives at an even greater risk,” it said.
The general election was not constitutionally due until May 2022.
But on August 19, after the dissolution of Parliament, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis announced that an election will be on September 16.
He has not indicated why he decided to call an election during The Bahamas’ worst surge in COVID-19 cases, telling a reporter the reason will be revealed in the future.
Healthcare officials have indicated that both public and private healthcare institutions have exceeded their capacity to house COVID patients and non-COVID patients as hospitalizations continue to soar.
As of Saturday, 175 COVID-positive individuals were hospitalized.
More deaths and cases – 115 and 3,540, respectively – were reported in August than any other month so far.
However, despite The Bahamas’ worsening situation, political parties continue to host events that allow individuals to congregate.
Last week, the Free National Movement (FNM) hosted several drive-in rallies.
Although supporters were not supposed to leave their vehicles, some did not follow this protocol.
While the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) only held one virtual rally, the party did hold a nationwide motorcade on Saturday.
During that motorcade, some supporters gathered in the back of trucks and cheered for PLP candidates.
The scenes of mass gatherings were also a point of concern for Consultant Physicians Staff Association President Dr. Sabriquet Pinder-Butler.
“I know we’ve already heard, ‘OK. We’re going to put protocols in place and persons have to stay in their cars, etc.’, but, unfortunately, when those things aren’t being properly policed, we don’t commit ourselves to those behaviors,” Pinder-Butler said yesterday.
“You know, I think we’ve had a lot of motorcades recently and persons – despite best efforts to remind people – are still gathering, are still not wearing masks and are still seriously putting themselves at risk of contracting COVID at this time. I think that is extremely dangerous.
“That is extremely dangerous and concerning as well for healthcare providers and we don’t think it’s the right thing to do right now.”
She said these events can lead to an increase in cases “while the healthcare providers – physicians, nurses and other staff – are working hard to try and keep it together while we are also losing colleagues and family members and friends”.
Pinder-Butler said the situation is scary for healthcare providers at this time.
“We’re very concerned for the Bahamian public,” she said.
“We hope that our leaders will please do the right thing: scale back on what you’re doing, continue to advocate for those measures, have some policing of those measures put in place.
“We cannot continue to turn a blind eye just for this campaign time and when things are over, we’re still dealing with the loss of life. We’re still dealing with people being sick from COVID and not being able to provide the care that we need for them.”