These are bizarre circumstances in which we live. Good to say, medical advice, in regard to sanitation and social distancing measures, has produced good results in the initial control of the spread of COVID-19 on our shores.
However, with the possibility of there being no end in sight, or any time near, the medical advice can sometimes appear counterproductive. Now, when I say medical advice, I am aware that the phrase “medical advice” is sometimes used to blanket political malfeasance. Here’s why these lockdowns are appearing to be counterproductive:
Total public compliance will never be
It is irrational to govern with the hope that people will comply. I’m certain I speak for many when I say each time an official of this crisis pulls the “public compliance” card, I think of one prevailing possibility for doing so: if the current imposed lockdowns/curfews are not adequately working to curb the spread, blame the public.
It was said some time ago that the competent authority did not cave under pressure from the public to open the borders to allow Bahamians freedom of movement (which is the least of anyone’s worry). The more likely reason for opening the borders was completely driven by the rationale that the economy needed to be stimulated or would be brought to its knees in the future.
Now keep in mind the long-standing severity of the COVID-19 situation in the United States, with more active cases than the number of people in The Bahamas combined.
After the borders have been opened, the cases on home soil ballooned out of control with a second wave (which was completely predictable) and as a result, the blood is on the hands of the Bahamian public. So now, what must be done? Ignore the colossal mistake of opening the borders, wave the big stick and impose stricter lockdown laws on an already fragile domestic state with the expectation that they will be followed.
The competent authority and his advisors share the belief that weekends and nighttime are the only periods in which a largely unemployed population find it possible to gather (a desire made greater when days for shopping are reduced).
This is further compounded by the idea that three days out of the work week for shopping and banking is practical to contain the spread of COVID-19, when nearly the whole island is bumper to bumper, queuing ridiculously long lines almost everywhere.
Now some may argue that one must not complain if they aren’t offering a suggestion. But let’s face it, in light of the latter considerations, is a lockdown really the solution or is it worsening an already drastic situation?
On August 17, 2020, after 8 p.m., the competent authority came onto media platforms and imposed a complete lockdown.
A savage, irrational abuse of power is an understatement and has, at this point, left me totally disenchanted.
A total shutdown with no kind of warning. Even essential workers need gasoline and food. Before this, the public was under the impression that whatever shopping had not been done on this day could be done on the other. Whatever money is hustled today would be used for food tomorrow.
Then, what of the chronically ill – those with diabetes, hypertension or requiring a specific diet or other health instruments for their survival? Furthermore, is the competent authority aware that there are people in the country who use the public pump for water? It may appear elementary to spell out these very basic issues that had clearly not been taken into account.
In other words, a common-sense translation of the lockdown announced on Monday night read: if there is no food on one’s shelves or water to drink, one must stay indoors at any cost. If you refuse to do so, you would be apprehended and recklessly fined.
Now this is not to deny that there are a few food programs that have reached out, but the question is, to whom and to how many?
Has it been dismissed that the income of many households have been gravely diminished and the coffers of national insurance are said to be by mid-September? Has the fact that those people who must pay rent and feed their children must, in many ways, hustle to do so?
It took storm warnings to make the competent authority rescind lockdown orders.
Poor public relations
While it is pointed out that the lockdowns are counterproductive to the people, it is also to the party itself. For sure, there are politicians who desperately wish to be reemployed and hope to not lose confidence in their respective constituencies and the party, little shy of over a year and a half to the next general election.
For this reason only, blunders that backfire and read wrong can erase all shreds of possibility of a re-election (if this bridge hasn’t already been burnt).
There’s a joke that Bahamians have short memories. Just a few months ago, a group of six was allowed into the country with testing kits, when the borders were closed to actual Bahamians — controversy which the former minister of health resigned over and brought a kind of saving grace to that issue and the party by large.
Then, what about the arrest of young men selling coconut water on the side of the road to support their families? Unlawful or not, it is interpreted poorly by the public.
Most people see law enforcement as a reflection of the government in power; isn’t that what it is?
Certainly the interaction of the police with the public during curfew laws is clearly communicated from the competent authority. It goes without saying, then, this move makes the government appear to do nothing but take bread out of everyone’s mouth.
In conclusion, what can be done beside allowing domestic economic activity to continue?
With the excuse of an impending storm, the country is reopened (which it has been for obvious reasons), numbers continue to spike and this lockdown, like many others, would seem to have been in vain.
Conduct an economic census on high-risk islands and residential areas, directed at understanding living conditions, particularly the social welfare of children, to better understand the other Goliaths a blind eye has been cast upon.
The solution: continue to socialize people to this global new normal by making sanitation, masking and social distancing compulsory.
Lockdowns are losing credibility and no longer can one attempt to convince the Bahamian public that they are happening globally when they are not.
One thing is for certain, continuing to rectify no-brainers days after each lockdown is imposed, only when the public laments, is counterproductive and draining the last ounce of confidence and tolerance the Bahamian people have in this government.
— Glenn King