Stay home

With the announcement of four new COVID-19 cases on New Providence, bringing the country’s total confirmed cases to nine, Health Minister Dr. Duane Sands renewed his strenuous call yesterday for residents to stay home as much as possible.

“The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to the virus,” he stressed.

Even as this critical call is being made, vehicular traffic on the streets of the capital appears to be on the increase, but there is a cause and effect element to this that government should pay close attention to.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis issued a new list of business exemptions under the current emergency order now in force.

Of the decision-making process for exempted business operations, Attorney General Carl Bethel during a telephone appearance on the Guardian Radio show “The Revolution”, indicated that a balance must be struck between the need for commerce and the need to protect the public from the spread of COVID-19.

What the government must guard against is sending what can be interpreted by residents as a mixed message about its lockdown, through amendments to its list of exempted businesses.

Residents, who have interpreted the new list as an expansion of business offerings for the general public, have in turn questioned whether the country is in a true lockdown.

Government should work to ensure that its messaging with respect to its emergency order amendments is clear, so that all segments of the population understand what is happening via those amendments, and what is not.

Viral postings of a sale at a food services establishment in the capital yesterday sparked a long line of cars and crowds of would-be shoppers who sought to take advantage of the reported savings.

In that moment, it seemed the desire to capitalize on a potential bargain during tough economic times overshadowed the urgency of the call to remain at home and stay away from large gatherings.

Staying home and practicing social distancing while away from home minimizes a surge in COVID-19 cases, which can threaten the viability of this country’s frontline fighters in the pandemic — our healthcare workers.

Across the world, healthcare workers are experiencing levels of infection and casualties we must all work diligently to prevent.

After all, if our nurses, doctors and medical support teams fall victim to the disease, there will be less qualified hands on deck to provide medical care for our family of islands.

Throughout Europe, thousands of medical professionals have tested positive for COVID-19.

In Italy, France and Spain, more than 30 healthcare professionals have died, and in Brescia province, the center of Italy’s outbreak, 10 to 15 percent of doctors and nurses have been infected and put out of commission, according to a report in the New York Times.

In a message from the International Council of Nurses, Italian Nurses Association (CNAI) President Walter de Caro described the country’s fight against COVID-19 as a war, emphasizing that, “All Italians have to stand together to acknowledge the sacrifice, commitment and heroism of all our nurses, including newly graduated nurses, retired nurses, military nurses, health support staff and volunteers.”

Sands has assured that our health professionals are being provided with the resources and personal protective equipment required to ensure they and their most critical role in the country’s pandemic response are safeguarded.

But protecting ourselves, our healthcare system and those who work therein is not the government’s job alone.

Obey social distancing instructions. Wash your hands with soap and water frequently and use an alcohol-based sanitizer when soap and water are not available.

Visit the Ministry of Health’s online pages to stay informed on what you and your loved ones should do to limit the spread of COVID-19.

And unless it is absolutely necessary, please stay home.

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