With COVID-19 cases continuing an upward trek daily and the tourism industry slated to fully open in roughly two weeks, former Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands said yesterday that visitors will be reluctant to come to The Bahamas and spend the level of tourism dollars needed to rebound the economy.
Questioning the effectiveness of the ongoing lockdown measures, Sands said eventually the government will have to take even more drastic fiscal measures to offset the economic downturn from its own COVID-19 policies.
“We have no tourists, for all intents and purposes. Even though the economy is going to open up 15 short days from now, I am not sure whether that is even possible. It’s still on the books, we’re still preparing for it. But as long as we’re having the US travel advisory, as long as we’re having cases at the level that we are, people are going to be generally reluctant to come and spend the level of money that we need to keep our economy afloat,” Sands said while appearing as a guest on the Guardian Radio talk show “The Hit Back with Nahaja Black”.
“What that does is it means that essential services will start to be squeezed. We may get to a point – and I know people hate to hear this – where we have to start cutting things. Cutting salaries, maybe even cutting staff. Because the economy can only sustain this type of bleeding for a finite period. Now what that finite period is, there are experts in finance better equipped in finance than I am to say, but we cannot do this
Sands, who resigned as minister of health in May, again called for an end to the emergency orders, which allow the competent authority to “unilaterally” make decisions.
He said since businesses are most greatly impacted by lockdown measures, they should be involved in alternative solutions on how Bahamians can safely live with COVID-19.
“So, even as we claim the situation and we acknowledge that no, we are not doing well, we are in trouble, let us now throw this open to the business community for ideas. To doctors and nurses and health professionals for ideas. Let’s take it away from the competent authority. Let us now go back to a democratic way of running this country. And I have said that we have exhausted the utility of the emergency orders,” Sands said.
“The new normal is the new normal. We’re seven months in, eight months in, COVID has been with us for ten months. Are we going to suspend constitutional liberties forever? This is no criticism of the competent authority or the prime minister, it could be, but I would think that it’s simply a matter of suggesting that we need all hands on deck and we need to respect the contributions of the public. And we need to genuinely consider alternative approaches so that we don’t have thousands of people unemployed.”
The Bahamas earlier this week surpassed 5,000 cases of COVID-19, placing it as the country in the Caribbean region with the second-most cases behind Haiti, which has more than 8,000 cases.
The tourism industry is slated to fully open on November 1, however, most major hotels have stated that they do not plan on reopening at that time.