The prime minister’s national address

The prime minister addressed the nation yesterday afternoon and advised that the second surge in COVID-19 cases had pushed the total number to 898, of which 777 are active.

He accepted no responsibility for the second surge, which was a direct result of the botched reopening of our borders on July 1 and his unwise decision authorizing Bahamians to travel internationally and thereafter return to The Bahamas without a requirement to be tested either prior to re-entry or immediately upon re-entry if they had traveled less than 72 hours. 

There was no requirement that they quarantine on their return.

He made no comment on the still woefully inadequate number of tests being administered to detect the disease and gave no undertaking to accelerated testing. 

He offered no information on the number of individuals in quarantine or isolation, whether in government facilities or at home.

Apart from advising that the number of hospitalized patients had increased to 35, he provided no breakdown on the age, island of residence or presence of comorbidities in any of the cases. And he provided no information on the number of patients on ventilators or on the availability of ventilators should they become necessary.

He was also silent on the increase in deaths since the beginning of the second surge and did not indicate how many, if any, unconfirmed deaths were awaiting autopsy results that might link them to COVID-19.

He advised that a new unit had been established at the Melia hotel to pursue contact tracing, but did not comment on the acceleration of tracing nor did he offer insight into the source of infections or links between infected individuals.

He provided no information on hundreds of individuals identified as contacts of infected individuals with whom the authorities have not made contact, are not monitoring and in many cases are unaware of their whereabouts.

He gave assurances that the country had adequate supplies of personal protection equipment.

He informed on bed capacity at New Providence hospitals and indicated that increased capacity was being put in place at Doctors Hospital West and at the South Beach Clinic.

He informed that the east wing of the Breezes hotel was being repurposed to accommodate non-COVID-19 patients requiring hospitalization, together with offices for medical and administrative staffs.

He said that the Public Hospitals Authority was seeking to relocate 33 mostly elderly boarders abandoned by their families at Princess Margaret Hospital.

And he reported on assistance extended to ensure that all, but most particularly the most vulnerable, have access to food security.

He advised of an extension in hours of operations permitted for food stores under the lockdown and indicated that he would report later on the work of the economic recovery committee.

He lifted the lockdown and curfew for most islands that remain COVID-free, excluding San Salvador.

He gave no explanation why a single case on Eleuthera, and three cases each on Cat Island and Exuma and a single suspected case on San Salvador warranted a complete lockdown of those islands akin to that in place on New Providence, Grand Bahama and Bimini and to a lesser extent on Abaco.

He was silent on school reopening on COVID-free islands.

While the public has been told that medical and healthcare workers and some members of the uniformed branches are among those infected by COVID-19, the prime minister provided no information on the number of doctors, nurses, medical technicians, police, customs or immigration officers who have been infected.

And, he provided no insight on how the police, customs and immigration officers, who operate outside of medical facilities but who are especially vulnerable to contagion from both symptomatic and asymptomatic members of the public, are being offered enhanced protections.

In short, the prime minister’s address was woefully incomplete and inadequate.

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