Rudderless in battle

If there was any doubt that the prime minister’s overarching priority is a potential early election irrespective of the dire healthcare straits before us, it was likely erased for many after last night’s national address.

In the face of a deadly and uncontrolled third wave, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis shirked specifics on plans to quickly arrest the ongoing surge, and instead saved those specifics for a campaign spiel about his government’s accomplishments to date.

There has been a minimum of 106 COVID deaths in the almost five months since the third wave began.

Though pleading with Bahamians to get vaccinated, Minnis provided no new information on the availability and sourcing of additional COVID vaccines, and gave an indistinct timeline for the hiring of additional healthcare workers.

Both Princess Margaret Hospital (PMH) and Doctors Hospital are operating in crisis mode, yet the prime minister’s only announcement to this end was that Samaritan’s Purse will once again provide medical tent services to PMH, adding 18 beds on an island where COVID hospitalizations have soared by 100 percent in just three weeks.

The Rand Memorial Hospital in Grand Bahama is also stretched to its capacity due to a surge in COVID hospitalizations, yet no announcement of additional bed space for the island was made, with the Grand Bahama Health Services confirming yesterday that 17 Rand nurses had called in sick.

The new COVID measures in effect as of Monday do not go far enough to move us past this crisis, but unsurprisingly, Minnis announced no additional measures, which appears to be in pursuit of not upsetting the electorate.

A critical measure healthcare professionals and many in the general public are calling for is testing for all incoming travelers regardless of vaccination status, since as the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) acknowledged this week, those who are fully vaccinated can contract and transmit COVID-19.

Florida leads the way in the Delta variant surge raging in our primary tourism market, yet in the face of an exponential spread of COVID that is showing no signs of abating, Minnis has refused to close this teeming gap in the country’s COVID defenses at our borders.

Though American visitors take rapid antigen tests locally to satisfy US entry requirements for international arrivals, those and all other antigen test results are not reported on the COVID dashboard, and rate of compliance with follow up PCR testing requirements for those who are antigen positive, has never been confirmed.

Minnis cited Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Director Dr. Carissa Etienne, who has repeatedly expressed concerns about the relatively low level of COVID vaccination in the region.

But in the face of his country’s uncontrolled surge, it seems the prime minister has forgotten Dr. Etienne’s concurrent advice, being, “We have seen time and time again that full economic activity cannot resume unless we have the virus under control.”

The PAHO director added in a recent interview that attempts at a return to full economic activity in the absence of control of COVID-19, places lives at risk and extends the uncertainty brought by the pandemic.

In conjunction with PAHO, an epidemiologist will join New Providence’s contact tracing team, an addition the prime minister said will be essential to tracking down individuals known to present a COVID risk to others.

It seemed lost on Minnis that if The Bahamas continues with the policy of granting entry to untested fully vaccinated travelers, those who are COVID-positive cannot be known and therefore cannot be tracked, thereby heightening the country’s risks.

The Hubcatt monitoring system utilized for those ordered into quarantine or isolation is being replaced, according to Minnis, yet there was no explanation for why this is occurring, and whether the current system has failed to meet the needs for which it was acquired.

During the battle of Actium in 31BC, Roman triumvir Mark Antony abandoned his flagship in a battle that was worsening for him by the day, and sailed away in pursuit of what had captured his heart, Queen Cleopatra.

The prime minister ought to assume his post, face the resident backlash of necessary decisions head on, and bring to bear all accessible arsenal to fight this COVID battle that must be won.

But the captain of the ship of state seems devoted to sailing away from what is necessary, in pursuit of an election goal that for him, appears all consuming.

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