Editorials

The second surge warrants a second national lockdown

The Bahamas reopened its ports to private aircraft and boaters on June 15.

On that date, there were 104 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the country, two hospitalizations and 11 official deaths on record.

By June 30, there were no hospitalized COVID patients.

The prime minister in April announced in the House of Assembly a five-phased plan to reopen the economy. He assured that progress between the phases would be guided by advice from the health team, which had so far provided good leadership to the country’s fight to contain the spread of the pandemic.

The Bahamas moved through phases one to three fairly smoothly though not free of favoritism in the grant of waivers from emergency powers restrictions.

Notwithstanding the opening of the borders to permit Bahamian citizens and residents to return home, the rate of new infections still slowed.

Cases in Grand Bahama remained in the single digits.

A two-week lockdown beginning in mid-May, stopped community spread of the disease in Bimini, which topped-out at 13 cases.

All other Family Islands remained COVID-19-free.

Between the early May resignation of the minister of health and the mid-June partial reopening of the border, the number of new infections grew from 84 to 104, suggesting that community spread continued, likely the result of asymptomatic spread.

Health officials even owned up to losing contact with some returned residents who were supposed to be in self-quarantine.

Restrictions on business meant to curb the spread of COVID-19 had devastating effects on the economy. Jobs were lost, business contracted, and government revenue decreased dramatically.

On June 2, the Ministry of Tourism held a media event to unveil a plan for the reopening of the tourism sector as proposed by the public/private Tourism Readiness and Recovery Committee.

The reopening plan provided for the reopening of sea and airports to private international travellers on June 15, and, as of July 1, to travellers on commercial, regularly scheduled airlines.

Anti-COVID-19 protocols were to be met by all incoming visitors.

By June 25, there were no COVID-19-positive patients in hospital and the number of confirmed cases was holding at 104.

Progress containing the spread of the disease has been dogged by the unwillingness of the competent authority to take advice, to be transparent and to account to the public for policies and restrictions put in place.

In turn, significant numbers of Bahamians disregard health advisories to social distance and the wearing of facial masks.

As Florida began experiencing record breaking increases of COVID-19 infections, the competent authority made the fateful decision permitting Bahamians travelling for three days or less, to be exempted from the established protocol.

The less-than-stellar-record of monitoring home-quarantined COVID-19 patients, ineffective contact tracing, unsupervised self-isolation and the decision to exempt Bahamians from a COVID-19 test after three-day overseas visits, sealed our fate.

COVID-19 has increased exponentially in New Providence and Grand Bahama, resurged in Bimini, and spread to Abaco, The Berries, Cat Island and Exuma.

As of yesterday, we have a total of 679 confirmed cases, 22 hospitalizations and 14 deaths.

A national lockdown is long overdue in spite of the economic and financial costs.

Having botched the reopening, this time, the government must get testing, tracing and quarantining right.

We suggest the government begin with an audit of individuals supposedly in isolation and self-quarantine and impose mandatory quarantine in a government facility for violators, without exception.

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