Sensing blood in the water with record COVID-19 case numbers in the past two weeks, recently-elected Free National Movement (FNM) Leader Michael Pintard’s political instincts appear to be telling him there is an opportunity afoot to capitalize on what his party believes are the fears of the Bahamian people about a disease that has infirmed and killed so many.
What Pintard does not primarily appear to understand is that despite what delusive FNM devotees tell themselves to feel better about supporting the last administration, the Bahamian people largely view its handling of the pandemic as disastrous.
Also, Pintard should understand that many Bahamians have observed that with each dominant variant in the United States comes a wave of that variant in The Bahamas.
Bahamians consume enough international media to grasp that while the omicron variant is much more contagious than the previous widespread variants, high numbers of infections of this variant have not correlated with adverse outcomes on the scale of the alpha and delta variants.
Additionally, what on Earth has the vaccination drive of the past several months been about if not to protect people from getting sick and dying?
Though hospitalizations have not risen at the same rate as COVID-19 infections, it is undeniable that hospitalizations have risen in the past two weeks.
And while we have concern about the strain placed on the healthcare system, particularly with so many healthcare workers out of the system, this rise in hospitalizations must be contextualized.
Dr. Nikkiah Forbes, director of the National HIV/AIDS and Infectious Disease Programme, has said the increase in those infected at Princess Margaret Hospital is a result of people who presented to the hospital for other ailments who were found to be positive as a result of mandatory admissions testing, and those who are presenting for treatment of COVID-19 symptoms.
Yet, here we are with Pintard and the FNM holding a press conference yesterday during which he blithely suggested that lockdowns and curfews should not be taken off the table.
After nearly two years into a global pandemic, Pintard and the FNM’s big idea seems to be lockdowns, curfews and restriction thresholds based on positivity rates.
We note with interest that at an FNM press conference about a public health crisis, the FNM’s shadow minister of health, former Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis, was nowhere to be found.
Further to that, Pintard is wrong and his comments, as well as the comments of his colleagues yesterday, are steeped in hypocrisy.
These are the same people who kept government school children out of classrooms for nearly two years – an abject failure that alone warranted their ejection from office – who now criticize the PLP for delaying the reopening of schools.
This is the same Pintard who sat in Cabinet as the former administration imposed lockdowns and curfews, who just this week said, “Some of the summary lockdowns were ill-advised and did not achieve their purpose. It created unnecessary anxiety, stress, inconvenience, etc.”
To even suggest the possibility of lockdowns and curfews based on cases rather than hospitalizations or deaths is irresponsible and unproductive.
Omicron is said to be more contagious than the common cold. Closing everything down for the two weeks we have been told for nearly two years that it will take to flatten the curve will do nothing.
The border remains open and case numbers are still climbing in the United States.
If Pintard wishes to be useful, he should recognize the fact that when the highest numbers of deaths from COVID-19 occurred a curfew was in effect the entire time and accomplished nothing.
As we have said before, lockdowns and curfews did not stop the spread of COVID-19 and there is no one in the Ministry of Health who has yet to provide data that they did.
However, lockdowns and curfews did destroy many small and medium sized businesses and complicate many other things unnecessarily.
Pintard has also said when he was in Cabinet when positivity rates reached certain thresholds health officials recommended restrictions.
Are these different health officials than those at the Ministry of Health today?
Where we do fault the current administration is for after having decided to pursue a policy of no lockdowns and no curfews still blundering with regard to swiftly implementing widespread testing, more fully enforcing the health protocols and not having a more robust contact tracing regime in place.
Pintard pretending the former administration had the answers adds nothing to the discourse.