Shooting in the dark

While Ministry of Health officials on Friday outlined the patently obvious fact that there has been a dramatic uptick in COVID-19 cases, they failed to detail what accounts for the increase.

After having not held a press conference to update the public for more than three months, we were treated to a detailed breakdown of how many COVID-19 cases have been recorded since March.

With 4,718 cases and 93 deaths added to the daily dashboard between the date of the previous press conference, April 7, and the date of the latest press conference, July 23, we were not even told if what we are seeing is community spread.

We were offered no data on the reproduction rate of COVID-19 in the country.

We were not informed of where clusters of cases have been found.

We were not provided with any detailed demographics of the comorbidities of those who died from COVID-19 since April’s press conference.

And we were not told anything about contact tracing efforts, which the health minister previously said were being ramped up, including if any transmission may be originating from untested, vaccinated tourists coming into contact with unvaccinated Bahamians.

This information was also not provided during the April press conference.

During the fourth week of April, this journal authored two editorials that warned of the danger we faced should measures not be put in place to stem the rise in cases.

The week prior, the prime minister advised there were no plans to increase restrictions in response to rising case numbers.

We noted that “the current administration has taken the posture that things are fine and has so far maintained the impression that we are still where we were in January, when gloating and self-congratulation were a ceaseless exercise by those in Parliament”.

“We are approaching a dark place again, and the public is still not aware of critical information that could help us all target the spread,” we warned.

However, the very day the editorial was published, the prime minister informed the House of Assembly that “those traveling to The Bahamas from outside of the country will be exempted from a COVID-19 test if they are fully vaccinated and have passed the two-week immunity period”.

He also promised to increase COVID-19 enforcement.

In response to this, we cautioned: “It seems the new travel protocol is designed to make the tourism product more attractive, but unless immediate steps are taken to contain the current surge, the tourism product, commerce in general and our healthcare system are at serious risk.”

Yet not only were no further steps taken to contain the surge, even more restrictions were eased in the following months.

We do not point this out to say, “I told you so,” although we did tell you.

We point this out because it was clear to most who can think clearly where this was all headed.

And here we are with new measures that are backed by no science we can see and little understanding of exactly what is going on.

We appear to once again be shooting in the dark, throwing measures out there that jeopardize jobs and rattle personal arrangements with the scientific data driving them being opaque.

To be clear, we are not suggesting that we are against further restrictions; we had urged for them long ago in order to avoid the blunt measures used when we were in a similar position last fall.

Now that it is clear to the Minnis administration that doing nothing is no longer an option, what we are suggesting is a targeted strategy that will do the minimum amount of economic and psychological harm in the shortest possible time.

We are also suggesting that the exemption of testing before entering the country for those who are fully vaccinated be re-examined out of an abundance of caution.

Hopefully, the cavalier approach to this displayed by top-level officials over the past few months will be abandoned.

As in all national initiatives, there is also a role for the public to play.

Practice social distancing, wear masks when necessary, sanitize and avoid large gatherings, particularly in confined spaces.

Far too many have flaunted health protocols for various reasons, perhaps the chief one being COVID-19 fatigue.

It is a phenomenon that has been well-documented around the globe.

What is also true is that COVID-19 itself does not suffer from it.

It only seeks to replicate itself through a host.

And we are only helping its cause by letting down our guard.

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