It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.
People are putting up trees, decorations are going up… and the Prime Minister is doing his best Santa impersonation by delivering his own festive treat – an easing of some of the COVID-19 regulations.
Let’s be clear about this, though – it would be a bad idea to ease up for Christmas if the virus was still running rampant around the country. The good news is that the number of cases continues to drop. On Friday and Saturday, just 14 cases were recorded in the country. One case is still too many, of course, and we should listen to the advice of experts such as Dr Nikkiah Forbes, who last week warned that we should not be overly confident or come to the conclusion that the disease has left the country. It has most certainly not. Up to four in ten people can have COVID-19 and never have any symptoms – so they’re not getting tested, by and large.
But the drop in numbers is good news. And the hopes of having a more normal Christmas – though it still won’t be quite the same – lift the spirits at the end of a very difficult year.
Churches will be allowed to have midnight mass without worrying about the curfew rules, and there will be extra shopping days for retailers.
People will be able to have gatherings with a maximum of ten people. We urge people not to push that too much – not having a gathering with ten one day, then a different ten the next, then another ten the day after. Remember to keep trying to minimise your contact as best you can so you don’t inadvertently carry the virus from one gathering to another.
Best of all, there will be extra support for the unemployed and furloughed workers. Last week’s sight of thousands of people queuing for help at an Island Luck IL Cares event was a visual demonstration of how many people remain in need. Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis has given his own helping hand, extending the unemployment benefit programme through January. The food distribution programme gets another $10m to continue for the first quarter of next year. Those who don’t need such help might make their own Christmas donation to help out as well. There are a lot of Bahamians in need. Those of us who can help are needed by those who can’t.
It’s good news all round – but to keep it that way, we must keep wearing masks, washing our hands and keeping our distance.
It’s been a long road, and there’s a long way still to go – but at last there’s something to smile about.
Answers on detainees
It was always a case of waiting for the other shoe to drop.
After the case of Douglas Ngumi, who was unlawfully detained for six and a half years, the question was always going to be who else is being unlawfully detained.
Immigration Director Clarence Russell insisted that his staff obey the law, while Immigration Minister Elsworth Johnson said “we are a country of laws”, but Fred Smith QC, who represented Mr Ngumi at court, said he has dozens more similar cases.
He challenged immigration officials to publish a list of people at the detention centre, how long they have been there, why they are detained and whether they have been taken before a court. No such list has been forthcoming.
Now Human Rights Bahamas has accused the Immigration Department of illegally detaining seven asylum seekers, who sought refuge in The Bahamas after fleeing from Cameroon.
Six are in immigration custody, with one charged last week with assault and being held in prison in Fox Hill.
The Attorney General yesterday said he was unaware of the claims, while the Immigration Minister was unavailable for comment.
We have detailed before in this newspaper cases such as Matthew Sewell, who was locked up for more than nine years without being convicted of a single crime, or Atain Takitota, who spent eight years behind bars unconstitutionally. Mr Ngumi’s case was not the first time we have seen this happen. And if these accusations are true, then it won’t be the last. But what are we doing to stop these travesties from taking place? Answers need to be forthcoming.