Instead of making a case for the continuation of the government’s proclaimed state of emergency yesterday, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis took the nation on a whirlwind tour of stunning illogic and confusing decisions backed by no data whatsoever.
A state of emergency due to a pandemic connotes an imminent threat to public health that requires urgent, extraordinary action.
If we are indeed in a state of emergency, the changes to the emergency orders announced in the House of Assembly during debate on the resolution to extend it, certainly do not indicate such a threat.
The prime minister contends that “one cannot say that we do not need certain emergency orders and at the same time say that the virus remains very serious”.
In his opinion, “Saying both of these at the same time is wholly contradictory and makes no sense.”
Actually, saying that an issue is serious, but is not currently an emergency is not contradictory at all; it only requires the application of common sense.
An environment in which danger exists is one that should be navigated carefully, but does not necessarily have to be treated as an emergency.
Certainly not after months of understanding which protocols are best suited to avoid that danger.
The prime minister noted that some of the most prominent health officials in the world today believe that the face mask, or the “anti-viral scud missile” as he termed it, can sometimes possibly be more effective than a vaccine.
Emergency powers are no longer necessary to mandate mask-wearing; it can be easily done through the Health Services Act.
If we are still indeed in a state of emergency, the competent authority has a strange way of demonstrating it.
Eleuthera and Exuma have both recently had new COVID cases.
But somehow, they are now allowed to resume normal commercial business and social activity with no curfew, with simple social distancing, mask-wearing and hygiene rules.
However, Abaco, which, like Eleuthera, had several confirmed cases Monday, received no similar liberties.
The prime minister graciously extended beach-going time on Abaco – from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. – while telling residents there “no one cares” if they go to midnight.
If no one cares, why is there a curfew for the beach on Abaco at all?
On New Providence, gyms are now allowed to open, further confusing the public on where the emergency lies.
Not at gyms, clearly.
The emergency still apparently exists at graveside services on Abaco and New Providence, which are limited to 10 people.
But not at indoor funerals on Abaco and New Providence, which are now allowed with however many people can fit into a religious facility following Ministry of Health protocols.
If we are to understand this, an indoor funeral can be held in a facility that can potentially hold scores of people, but only 10 of those people are allowed at the gravesite.
Repasts are not permitted on Abaco and New Providence under any circumstance.
But outdoor wedding receptions, with what we assume is an unlimited number of people, are now allowed to occur on Abaco and New Providence.
We, of course, received no data on the number of active cases on any of these islands that may have informed the rationale behind these decisions.
However, he failed to update the nation on any sort of extension of unemployment assistance, which we were told is only funded up to the end of this month.
We were also given no specifics on planned changes to travel protocols and quarantine requirements despite the assurance that we are still on track for a reopening of our tourism product in about three weeks.
Minnis said that The Bahamas is not looking to reduce the number of COVID-19 cases in The Bahamas to zero, but rather we are looking to get it down to a level that has yet to be specified.
With such flimsy reasoning, opaque goals and the prime minister’s ominous warning of a possible “third wave” of infections, we fear that as far as the state of emergency is concerned, there is no clear end in sight.