The holiday beach closure is justified

Dear Editor,

I read with surprise and dismay the Tribune’s lead story on Tuesday, the tone of which seemed critical of the prime minister’s decision to close the beaches for the Independence holiday weekend. I was even more shocked at the editorial of the same day which reinforced this criticism.

The PM may not have explained his reasoning well enough, a problem he suffers from often, but the reasoning really should be obvious to anyone who has thought the matter through.

When beaches were initially closed, it was acknowledged that large gatherings of people were a significant contributor to community spread of COVID-19.

Bahamians tend to gather in large numbers on beaches on the weekend, and this is all the more so on holidays. Anyone who has seen a public beach on Independence weekend knows that we are talking about a crowd to end all crowds.

Yes, we have brought our community spread under control, thanks to the herculean efforts of this government.

However, we also opened our borders last week to the United States, where the virus continues to rage and is only in its first stages according to experts.

Even more to the point, the vast majority of our tourists come from the frenzied COVID hotspots of New York and South Florida, where thousands upon thousands of new cases continue to be recorded each day.

We know that some time ago, Jamaica also brought their community spread under control.

Then, they opened up to flights from the United States and recorded 14 new cases within a 24-hour period.

It is silly to just assume the same won’t happen here, regardless of our safety protocols.

Certainly, mandating that Americans test negative within seven days of coming to The Bahamas and taking their temperature upon arrival are good ideas. But it is not a fool-proof system. Such a system does not exist.

With symptoms taking up to 14 says to manifest, a traveller from Miami could test negative seven days before traveling to The Bahamas, and then have plenty of time to go out and contract COVID-19 on the streets of their city before landing in Nassau with no symptoms whatsoever.

This will undoubtedly happen in multiple cases. We should not fool ourselves into complacency.

And if even just one of those asymptomatic travelers, or an unsuspecting Bahamian they may have infected in the meantime, sets foot on the terminally crowded beaches of a holiday weekend, we are back to square one, or even worse, as thousands of people could be infected and our healthcare system overwhelmed.

Near the beginning of the outbreak of COVID-19, South Korea stabilized its case number at 30.

They thought everything was under control. But a single patient, known as “Patient 31” attended several crowded events and became a “super-spreader”.

Almost overnight, South Korea was dealing with thousands upon thousands of cases — most of them traced back to that single patient.

It goes to show that under certain conditions, it only takes one infected person to start a huge outbreak.

Crowded beaches, combined with travelers from COVID spike areas in the United States, are exactly the right combination to spell disaster for The Bahamas.

I find the Tribune’s editorial to be short-sighted, irresponsible and uninformed.

It is exactly the kind of attitude that got the United States into the mess they are in now.

The Tribune editor thinks that the prime minister is setting us up for a miserable Independence celebration? Imagine the misery 14 days later had the beaches been open. We would reap the bitter harvest of unthinking impatience and myopia.

The government has done an excellent job in shepherding us through this unprecedented danger so far.

We should continue to have patience and trust that they are working on our behalf. They have earned the benefit of the doubt.

Ricardo Johnson

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