I write to you concerning COVID-19, its impact on us and the way forward.
I write first and foremost as a citizen of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas; secondly, as the father of four beautiful Bahamian daughters; and thirdly, as the soon-to-be husband of an amazingly beautiful Bahamian woman.
Sir, COVID-19 visited on the world the worst pandemic we have seen in 100 years. It brought along with it not only the ability to take lives, but also the ability to destroy economies.
We in The Bahamas were not spared this visit, but were overwhelmed with everything life-altering that came with it.
To date, there are 1,798 confirmed cases and 46 deaths.
Unemployment has risen by a staggering 30 percent since the onset of COVID-19, to a frightening 40 percent.
The tourism sector that we once knew no longer exists, so one can imagine the strain on our foreign reserves.
Our once bustling town center, Bay Street, has been reduced to a ghost town. Many businesses have succumbed to the fatal blow delivered by COVID-19; others are on life support.
Sir, in my view, as we chart the course for the way forward, it is important for us to conclude, as do many experts, that COVID-19 is with us for at least the next 18 to 24 months.
This being the case, it is of utmost importance for us to adapt to it in order to coexist with it.
We must accept that a new normal has been ushered in, and that new normal includes the wearing of masks, social and physical distancing and frequent hand-sanitizing.
Sir, if we are to embrace this new normal, lockdowns cannot and must not be our singular response.
Where is the public education on how we ought to conduct ourselves once we are released from a lockdown? We are aware that the virus lives on surfaces. Once out of lockdown, there is a mad rush to the supermarkets; everyone is handling items that they will leave on the shelves, possibly contaminated, for others to come behind and handle or purchase.
There was a time when purchases were packed in a single-use plastic bag that, once unpacked, was discarded; but today, everyone is mandated to use reusable bags that become contaminated. Once contaminated, the bags are again packed.
Is there an ongoing public education campaign to sanitize items prior to placing them in cabinets and refrigerators and washing bags after every use?
We have also moved away from disposable masks and have gravitated towards reusable masks that are being contaminated all day long; again, where is the public education campaign encouraging the washing of masks every day?
Wearing of masks is now mandatory in public.
Sir, you as the competent authority placed a ban on the importation of masks, save and except for medical masks. The reason behind this is noble – to encourage a local mask-producing industry.
No right-thinking Bahamian would argue with this. But, sir, I must say here that there is a major flaw in your pronouncement/order. You did not direct aspiring manufacturers of masks to section 98 of the Tariff Act that speaks to cottage and light industries.
This allows for the manufacturer to operate a one-man business from home, if necessary, and take advantage of duty-free concessions on raw material and machinery.
This will greatly reduce the production cost; hence, the cost to the end user.
Also, there was no mention of ways to fund the project, via the Venture Fund or guaranteed loan (small business).
As we wait on this new industry to take off, it may be necessary to relax the ban on imported masks. This will make it more affordable to purchase multiple masks, reducing the need to have to wash every night.
Sir, you are missing many opportunities in navigating our ship of state because, from all appearances, you have become alpha and omega of all things.
Sir, please do not get carried away by the margin of your victory and somehow translate that into having 100 percent of the support.
Philip Brave Davis, my leader at the end of 2017 election, led approximately 40 percent of the electorate, a percentage that has seen exponential growth from then to now.
Since as prime minister, you are not prime minister for only FNMs (even though some of your supporters believe that you are), it is incumbent on you to function as though you are paid via the public treasury and not on an account of the Free National Movement (FNM). It would be wise to listen to and consult with the leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition often because he speaks for a demographic that you do not listen to.
Sir, as we begin coexisting with COVID-19, I am of the view that you must repose trust in the responsibility and maturity of the Bahamian people. The protocols have been established with penalties attached for infractions; stringent enforcement of protocols is an absolute must.
Thoughts and suggestions from the other side.
– BJ Moss