With the number of new COVID-19 cases increasing, businessman Robert Myers said yesterday the business community, from his perspective, would be willing to suffer through a short period of hard times again to get the country back on track to lower numbers.
Minister of Health Reward Wells said yesterday that while there are no new restrictions to announce at this time, “that does not mean that there may not be”, adding that the government is “deploying measures that would have assisted us to get through the second wave”.
During the second wave of COVID-19, which took place around October last year, businesses operated with curbside service, there was a national curfew between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. and weekend lockdowns.
Speaking to the possibility of new lockdowns, Myers said, “We can’t be a country based on safe tourism and travel if we’re not going to be responsible inside. And the only way to get the economy going again is to get this thing under control.
“I think it’s critical. Obviously, are we in business happy about that? No we are not, we’ve already had enough hardship. But I think the only answer is that we have a healthcare system that we have to support and we have health and safety of the citizenry and our employees and even ourselves, we have to keep safe. If we have to go to those levels, then we have to go to those levels. They know the data, we don’t know the data.”
Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis said last week that there would not be anymore COVID-19 related restrictions despite increasing case numbers.
So far this month there have been more than 670 new cases of COVID-19.
Myers – who is also the head of the Organization for Responsible Governance (ORG) – said the government should be proactive and establish a benchmark by which it can determine at which point certain restrictive measures are necessary.
“I was asking for this from the beginning. What is that matrix? If you let the numbers get to X, then you know it enforces the curfew and trying to shut things down gradually, as opposed to having to do a complete shutdown. Curbside and curfews are the first and most obvious, it keeps the social distancing pressures on and the separation pressures on and then you move into the more draconian,” he said.
“But you should never have to go back to those harsh levels. If you can manage COVID-19 you can get ahead of it, be more proactive and close down earlier, then you don’t have to get to such dire consequences.”
Myers did, however, commend the government’s push for citizens and residents to become vaccinated. But he said the process has not been aggressive enough.
“The vaccination process, while I understand it’s going, I think we’re way behind and I don’t know what the reasons for that are. But that vaccination process, there should be a lot more needles on the ground, there should be a significant amount more needles in arms. Whatever the government has to do to improve on that is critical, because they’re definitely behind the eight ball on that. You look at what the US and Cayman and Bermuda have done, some of these other tourism-dependent countries have gotten more vaccinations distributed and we’re still floundering around. So that part of it is going to keep us open and back to normal,” he said.
More than 21,000 people have received the AstraZeneca vaccine since the first doses were delivered to The Bahamas last month.
Myers said it is critical that The Bahamas moves on from this third wave of COVID-19, for more than economic and health reasons.
“It’s life safety. What we don’t want to do is have crisis management. You want thoughtful, proactive management. You’ve got to keep people employed. There’s also the social aspect of this that is not being talked about nearly enough and that is that there is a real social problem that is occurring because people are desperate,” he said.
“So in the same token, we have the life safety issue, but that issue must also consider the social aspect of where our countrymen are. You can’t just keep issuing checks and food to people. People need to feel a sense of achievement. They want to go to work, it’s healthy for people to do that and for kids to go to school. So we can’t keep doing this forever. It’s imperative that we strike a balance.”