Questions following the PM’s national address

Dear Editor,

On Monday evening, the prime minister of The Bahamas spoke to the Bahamian people to address the COVID-19 pandemic in The Bahamas and, it was thought, to give a clear outline to the Bahamian people as to the effect of the measures in place and the way forward.

The prime minister failed.

It is with note that after all the scrambling around and the return of the former medical director supplanted at the feet of the prime minister that the prime minister has only NOW seen the value of asking the rest of the medical industry to join in the fight against COVID-19 in The Bahamas.

But saying so with no substantive approach is a value of naught.

Why not take the proactive approach and ask that the medical professionals in the private sector assist with testing? That would be a great start and is the one suggestion that is made here.

The prime minister stated that “information from the field is also informing us that some populations are particularly hard-hit and have higher mortality rates from COVID-19”.

So then, what is the strategy to deal with this, Mr. Prime Minister?

We suggest that a task force equipped with the proper PPE (personal protective equipment) is assembled to go into urban communities, distribute masks and do some level of testing and education on how to protect oneself from COVID-19.

If, as you say, Mr. Prime Minister, that you “continue to strategize and act to manage COVID-19…to prevent a surge in cases and the loss of countless lives”, then this would be a good start towards that.

Alas, at this apex again, the prime minister failed to tell the Bahamian people what will be done. Again, words that come to naught.

Then, on page six of his address, the prime minister decided to address perhaps one of the biggest failures — the shopping schedule.

Every Bahamian could not help but notice the chaos that this presented and the initial refusal of the prime minister to roll back the failed schedule and extend store hours.

For some unknown reason, the prime minister continues to say that grocery stores open at 6 a.m. and that is when the shopping schedule commences.

The fact at this point is that grocery stores open at 7 a.m. Somebody should let him know that.

The good news is that the failed shopping schedule will be suspended “temporarily”. Nobody in right thinking could understand why this is temporary and why it will be brought back.

The long announcements about shopping schedules, how to social distance when shopping and using online grocery shopping would be better served on another platform and could very well be made into a strategic campaign through social media, the regular media houses and by placing billboards around our country just as is done at election time.

Finally, the prime minister got to the real areas of his address that Bahamians need to know, which is, in this period of mass layoffs and money shortages, what will the government do to address the situation?

There was more talk about a Food Security Task Force, NIB providing assistance, social services providing food vouchers and the engagement with non-governmental agencies to provide support.

Nice to hear, but none of this can go to the bank to pay a mortgage, the landlord to pay rent or the food store to buy groceries.

If only we could have heard of a rent assistance program and other social direct interventions; plans to deal with the displacement of students who are still out of school and a sound public relations exercise to deal with our current situation to ward off the approaching health challenges, much of which was born out of the “shopping schedules” of the last few days.

A famous philosopher wrote, “People with good intentions make promises but people with good character keep them.”

Mere promises to look after the poor and to assist those in need, Mr. Prime Minister, please keep.

To date, there is no clear path or plan to accomplish much of these.

Charles Clarke

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