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Editorial: Just Because The Country's Open Doesn't Mean The Crisis Is Over

TODAY’s the day.

Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis fired the starting pistol for the reopening of the economy in New Providence last week – so his national address yesterday was a little redundant.

That said, it was reassuring to hear that there were no second thoughts, no shift based on new medical advice and that it was all systems go.

That said, many feel a little wary about this new approach – and that’s a good caution to have.

As The Tribune was going to press, another 32 new cases were announced – along with, sadly, another three deaths under investigation. That brings the total number of dead to 43 confirmed COVID-19 deaths and 13 under investigation.

If that doesn’t give you cause to reconsider whether you need to be out on the roads today, then it should. At the very least, it should make you take every precaution as you do.

“Do not let your guard down,” said Dr Minnis, “We are still in a marathon fight against COVID-19.”

He repeated that this is not a time for large parties or gatherings – and as much as we might ache to see friends we’ve not seen in too long, every time we do we risk spreading the virus to those same people we love, or catching it from them unwittingly.

This is no time for slackness. This is no time for people to be not wearing masks, such as the Bahamian workers singled out for criticism by Dr Minnis at The Pointe while their Chinese colleagues were wearing theirs.

This is a time to excel in showing how Bahamians can outdo others. People in other countries are holding protests over wearing masks – there were protests in the US and the UK just this weekend. We can do better than that. We can do what needs to be done and beat this virus.

Dr Minnis may have not been inspiring in yesterday’s address, but how many times has he got to repeat the same things before people do what needs to be done: Wear masks; wash your hands regularly; stay socially distant. It’s a simple formula – so let’s get it done.

Who's keeping track?

We might roll our eyes a little at the words of the managing director of the Disaster Reconstruction Authority today.

It seems forever ago now, but in January a pledging conference was held to raise money to aid in the rebuilding after Hurricane Dorian.

Cast your mind back to the aftermath of that terrible storm a year ago and you may well recall there were many pledges being made at the time. It was hard to keep up at times, with all the celebrities pledging assistance or organisations stepping up to help.

Then came the pledging conference – which in this column we welcomed as a good idea. Even one dollar gained from that would be one dollar we didn’t have before.

However, in the aftermath there were a number of questions about the exact sum that was pledged, and a long wait for a written list of the pledges.

Mrs Smith says that people have “this big misconception that there is something sinister going on with these grants”. Well, if people ask for more details and they’re made to wait forever, they will begin to wonder what’s going on.

A promise to do something, of course, does not mean something has actually been done – and similarly just because a pledge was made does not mean there was an outcome from it. There needs to be follow-through. However, the disparity between the $1.77bn total in pledges and the $109,000 in cash that has been received is wide indeed. A large part of that total was distorted by a $1.675bn in equity funding pledged by a US firm, but the country hasn’t taken up that offer so far.

What is more concerning is that Mrs Smith doesn’t seem to quite have her finger on the pulse of other donations. She said: “I think the Indian government may not have pledged that day but had pledged a million. You had the US government that had pledged about $2m for something infrastructure to do with security or something.”

That all sounds very vague and not at all encouraging. Shouldn’t that information be at her fingertips, with progress reports on who pledged it, when it was pledged, what it was for, and what the state of follow-up meetings has been and when the money will have arrived? Have some of these pledges fallen through the cracks?

There’s really no point in asking for help if you don’t keep track of the assistance after it’s promised. If someone pledges and then backs out, that’s not the government’s fault. But if someone pledges and then never hears from the government again, that’s shoddy management – and a failure that directly affects people who still do not have a roof over their head.

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