Letters

Our leaders were slow to act on COVID-19

Dear Editor, 

 Unlike most countries struggling under the burden of COVID-19 infections, The Bahamas was in the enviable position of having two doctors in significant roles of government; one as prime minister and one as minister of health.

I am not sure this has ever happened anywhere in the history of global pandemics.

On the basis of that alone, we should have been much further ahead in the “fight” against this virus, but we are not.

Most leaders of countries are politicians who come from non-medical backgrounds and have to rely on the advice of medical experts to make decisions at this time.

In this country, our leaders seem to have forgotten their trade craft and allowed their initial decisions about how to approach this problem to be based on economic and political concerns.

The truth is a bitter pill to swallow, but here I go!

Both the prime minister and minister of health practiced surgery in some form, so naturally they would have to have a basic understanding of infections and infectious control.

That is why it is puzzling when reviewing newspaper articles leading up to this point, that their initial response to the impending health crisis was not made with their medical minds, but with the political one!

It was well known from January 2020 that China was having major problems with a novel virus spread by person-to-person contact.

By February 2020, China shut down the city of Wuhan and built hospitals within days to accommodate the anticipated surge in cases and deaths that would result.

Those two acts signaled to the world that China was afraid of what was about to happen.

Sadly enough, early on the airports in China were not closed, so the export of the virus continued unabated to other countries.

In fact, every country where the virus has and is ravaging lives, it is because they made a decision based on potential negative economic impact and did not close their borders soon enough.

But aren’t their economies still suffering and weren’t many more lives lost when the virus made a decision for them that they refused to make on their own initiative with the benefit of foresight?

We encourage millions of people to visit our country every year.

It should be obvious that puts us at a higher than average risk for importing infections spread by person-to-person contact.

Simple logic says that if a killer infection can be spread from person to person without symptoms, then the first thing to do is to not allow people from affected countries into your country.

How could our physician leaders not view these visitors as potential carriers of infection and move immediately to protect us by closing our borders to all flights and cruise ships from the time the first COVID-19 diagnosis was made here?

I expect a doctor to make an amputation to save a gangrenous limb rather than take a wait-and-see approach and lose their patient!

The economy would have been affected in any event, but it could have been controlled by more aggressive steps initially instead of taking a wait-and-see approach.

Once a problem, any problem, is contained, it becomes much easier to deal with, as the amputation example shows.

The first action should have been to remove the potential for infected persons to enter the country and then attention should have been turned to aggressively containing local spread by severely restricting the movement of people and isolating Bahamians who travelled to hotspots.

It is well known that viruses cannot continue to multiply and spread without a host.

If you keep people apart, you automatically reduce opportunities for spread.

A virus will either kill its host, or the person will recover from the infection.

If the virus is contained within a confined area, without access to new hosts outside of that contained area, then the virus could not spread geographically.

Therefore, if the virus cannot spread to new persons it has to burn itself out in a matter of weeks as it dies in the healthy living host.

This is what the initial so-called curfews and “lockdowns” were supposed to have accomplished, but the plans were so impromptu and laxly enforced that nothing was accomplished other than making our lives miserable while instigating fear that caused people to flood grocery stores.

This served as a point of convergence for hundreds to potentially become exposed and infected. So rather than helping, the impromptu announcements of shutdowns, etc., actually may have made things worse.

In truth, if the government made the tough medical decisions we expect doctors to make and had properly shut this country down four weeks ago and had they been more proactive in testing people with symptoms, there would have been a dramatic drop in cases and deaths at this point and we would have a much better idea of exactly where the country stands; but in truth, we don’t.

Instead, based on the numbers released by public health, we have a mortality rate of approximately 18 percent, more than three times what it is in other countries, and that’s with physician leadership in a health-related issue!

This brings me to my last point.

Recently, the government announced that 50 healthcare workers were asked to self-isolate because of potential exposure to COVID-19 patient(s).

How can so many healthcare workers be taken out of the system at a time when there seems to be a surge in cases?

Has the government tested any of these workers to determine if they are positive; and if not, why?

If they develop no symptoms while in isolation, will they just be allowed to go back to work without testing; and if so, does that potentially expose patients they may see?

Testing for this virus seems to be a major problem in this country, and many I know who are concerned or had symptoms and wanted testing were declined by healthcare authorities and simply told to self-isolate.

It would be wonderful if the media can assist in helping the concerned public understand specifically who qualifies for a test and how to go about getting it done!

 

– JB

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