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The price of bad decisions

It was a gamble to open the country’s borders to travelers from the United States in the midst of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

It was also a gamble to allow Bahamians to leave the country for the United States on commercial flights and return untested within 72 hours.

Yet, the competent authority placed the bet and lost.

Now, it is Bahamians, who have already sacrificed greatly, who will face the consequences.

Yesterday, the prime minister announced in a national address that commercial international flights into The Bahamas from anywhere except Canada, the United Kingdom and the European Union will cease as of this Wednesday.

Bahamasair will also cease flights to the United States.

No comparable restrictions appear to have been placed on private flights and sea vessels to and from the United States.

The prime minister made these and other announcements amid the backdrop of the fastest rise in COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began.

There have been an additional 49 positive COVID-19 cases recorded in The Bahamas since July 8; a nearly 50 percent leap in cases since international borders fully reopened on July 1.

To put this in context, it took 29 days to hit 49 cases after the first case was reported on March 16.

In the 23-day period between May 23 and June 14, there were four cases recorded.

Between June 15 and July 7, there were no cases recorded.

Now, we have had an explosion of cases in just 11 days.

We agree with the prime minister that this is most likely because of imported cases.

We note that he did not mention it was he, as the competent authority, who reopened the border to international commercial flights from the United States as the number of cases skyrocketed there.

We note that he also did not mention it was he, as the competent authority, who allowed Bahamasair flights to land and board in the epicenter of the most infected nation on the planet, resulting in a flight attendant contracting the dangerous disease.

As a result, beaches have been ordered closed on New Providence and the surrounding islands and cays “out of an abundance of caution”, not for any stated medical reasons.

This will effectively kill New Providence and Paradise Island as tourist destinations for the duration of this measure.

And restaurants at Arawak Cay and Potter’s Cay Dock have once again been targeted and shuttered while restaurants almost everywhere else are allowed to remain open.

Again, there were no stated medical reasons, or even an attempt to have police more strictly enforce social distancing and mask wearing at those locations.

After flinging the door open for the resurgence of community spread of COVID-19, the prime minister once again cautions Bahamians that if they cannot stop the spread, they could expect more draconian measures imposed on them.

A similar, and more nonsensical, threat was levied at Grand Bahamians, who have not only had their beaches and parks closed, but have also had indoor dining and social events taken away, which will accompany an expanded curfew as of today.

In addition to its international border being closed to all flights and vessels as of Wednesday, Grand Bahama’s domestic border will close as well.

The competent authority claims if health officials believe “efforts to decrease the number of cases are unsuccessful” a lockdown may be on the way for Grand Bahama beginning Friday.

What does the prime minister believe officials will see, other than a run on food and essential supply stores, between today and Thursday, to convince them not to recommend a lockdown?

How he plans to feed the more than 50,000 people who live on Grand Bahama during any sort of lockdown was not shared with the public.

The prime minster also announced that Minister of Transport and Local Government Renward Wells will be sworn in as minister of health today.

Oddly, after months of touting his own medical expertise as something to instill confidence in the public, Wells, an engineer by profession, is whom he chooses to lead the most critical ministry during this pandemic.

Certainly, a medical doctor is not necessary to head the Ministry of Health.

However, the prime minister gave the reason for his decision as Wells being “a doer, who gets things done”.

What Wells has notably gotten done, to date, in his current ministry, or the one he served in as minister before that, or as parliamentary secretary in the one before that, during the previous administration, does not readily come to mind.

Stranger still, was the prime minister’s announcement during a national address on the pandemic that Bains and Grants Town MP Travis Robinson will today be reappointed as parliamentary secretary in the Ministry of Tourism.

The prime minister previously fired Robinson from that post for voting against the 2018 VAT increase.

Is there some anticipated rush of tourists and tourism-related matters on the horizon that warrants this appointment and the $48,000 burden on the public purse that accompanies it?

It seems wasteful, even if only nominally, in a time of record budget shortfalls and calls for austerity.

But it is becoming the new normal in this pandemic that Bahamians must pay the price for the prime minister’s bad decisions.

 

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