Editorials

The prime minister briefs the nation on COVID-19

The Bahamas has confirmed its first fatality from COVID-19.

The prime minister advised that we now have 21 cases identified, largely in eastern New Providence.

This information was provided by the prime minister in an address to a 4 o’clock press conference yesterday.

He advised that some 50 medical personnel on New Providence have been exposed to the coronavirus from patients who tested positive for the virus.

Of the six new infected persons, the chief medical officer advised that three of them joined another five patients presently hospitalized at Doctors Hospital West.

Many in the public were, undoubtedly, left with questions and concerns.

Questions abound about the reasons for the inordinate delay in transporting a patient from Bimini to Nassau. The 57-year-old patient died on Monday evening after she was airlifted.

The response given suggested that the matter was under investigation. This is a wholly inadequate and unacceptable answer.

We already know that government medical facilities do not have special multipurpose ISO chambers used to transport contaminated patients.

We are told that the refusal of air ambulance services, under contract with the government to transport the suspected COVID-19 patient from Bimini, was due to the threat of contamination.

If the Royal Bahamas Defence Force plane that ultimately transported the patient did not have an ISO chamber, the implications for those accompanying the patient are ominous.

The prime minister went to great pains to warn Family Island communities in the southernmost islands of The Bahamas to isolate themselves, not only from neighboring settlements, but also from anyone seeking to enter the island via boat, whether fishing or otherwise, and stressed that the Emergency COVID-19 regulations and orders applied to the entire Bahamas.

He was silent as to precautions or protocols that are in place for the more populous Family Islands where, like Bimini, they are served by modern community health clinics in San Salvador, Long Island, Harbour Island, Spanish Wells and western Grand Bahama, and by small hospitals as in Abaco and Exuma. And we are not clear on how the Rand Memorial Hospital is equipped following Hurricane Dorian.

If what transpired on Bimini is not to be repeated, we believe that access to a ventilator and an ISO chamber is urgent.

The prime minister acknowledged the authenticity of an AP story advising that the U.S. Coast Guard had informed all cruise ships to remain at sea, indefinitely, and to prepare to send their gravely ill passengers to their country of registry.

For ships in the vicinity of Florida, that will mean The Bahamas, where several ships are known to be on the Bahamas Registry.

When another Bahamian-registered cruise ship sought to disembark patients here, permission was summarily denied.

It is concerning that the prime minister did not advise that our position would not change should any of the ships concerned make an approach to The Bahamas government.

The prime minister, with reckless abandon, dismissed a question on his recent announcement that there would be no obligation for the payment of health and life insurance premiums for a period of time.

He said that he understood that the insurance companies were happy with his order.

But it is understood that there was no consultation with the industry and it is understood that the insurance commission was also blindsided by the order. 

Disturbingly and reflective of the disorganized preparation of the Emergency COVID-19 regulations and orders, is the government’s determination to exempt “domestic money transfers”, which appears to have been put in place to facilitate non-banking money transferred possibly by the Numbers Gaming Houses.

And, the prime minister, in the fifth amendment to the list of Exempted Businesses and Undertakings, gave new directions to obstetricians, pediatricians and dentists on which services could be given, under what conditions and subject to what mitigating protections.

Certainly, this ought to have been included in the first order. 

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