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Editorial: Beach Closure Explanation Just Doesn't Add Up

AT long last, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis spoke up yesterday to explain why he is closing the beaches for the Independence holiday.

We can’t say it was an especially good explanation – but an explanation it was, even if it should have come at the time he was announcing the closure rather than after being called on to give more answers.

He warned of the possibility of mass gatherings on beaches, and the possibility of the healthcare system melting down in the event of a spike in cases of COVID-19. He pointed to three new cases in Grand Bahama and said: “Just because we had not seen any new confirmed cases for a while, it does not mean that COVID has gone away from The Bahamas.”

It is better to prevent the situation from happening than try to cure it afterwards, he said.

Among those unconvinced by Dr Minnis’ explanation were two of his own FNM colleagues.

His former Health Minister, Dr Duane Sands, pointed out that some experts say that the spread of COVID-19 is less likely at beaches than taking part in other activities, including those not restricted here in The Bahamas.

He pointed out the risks of going to the mall, or getting restaurant takeout, or going to a bar – all higher than going to the beach. Other more dangerous activities include working in an office or visiting elderly residents or friends, playing basketball or working out in a gym. It certainly makes no sense that those with enough money can hop on a plane to one of the other islands to go to a gathering on a beach there.

Brent Symonette MP, meanwhile, the former Immigration Minister, questioned the sense in advertising ourselves to the world as a safe environment then telling visitors when they get here that the beaches aren’t safe.

As for the possibility of large gatherings, as Mr Symonette pointed out, why can’t the police take care of that? “Are we saying we cannot police the beaches?” he asked, “Is that what we’re really saying? I hope not.”

Dr Minnis, for his part, called on people “to sacrifice three days for a healthier and better nation… three days to save this nation”.

Shutting the beaches for three days to save the nation but not shutting the airports to flights from COVID-19 hotspots for one day seems an unusual balance.

We get it. We get the need to bring money into the country, to get things going again.

We also get that there isn’t enough testing being done. Dr Sands pointed out we are doing a fraction of the number of tests of our neighbours. The Cayman Islands has done 60 times the number of tests we have, Bermuda has done 20 times the amount, Barbados more than four times the amount, and Turks and Caicos more than three times.

The government’s top advisor, Dr Merceline Dahl-Regis, last week said there aren’t more tests being done because there is no more community spread of the virus – yet here we are shutting beaches to stop the spread of that same virus.

It is important to tell the Bahamian people the full story. It is important to share the reasoning – and the science – behind the measures being put in place.

It is also important to face up to questions, so that we can get better answers over the amount of testing, why the police can’t enforce distancing on the beaches, why some activities get the green light but others are firmly blocked.

Some of these actions don’t add up. We understand completely the desire to be cautious. Not one of us wants this virus to get another foothold in our country. When Dr Sands and Mr Symonette raise concerns, it is for genuine reasons. We should be doing more testing. We should be able to enforce measures in public. We should be asking what it says to the world when we say our beaches aren’t safe.

We should also be expecting our government to come forward with the reasons for its decisions without having to be pressed into doing so.

We are all on the same side in trying to defeat this virus. Leaving people in the dark only makes them think you are keeping things from them on purpose – and that helps no one in this fight.

Comments

birdiestrachan 3 weeks, 5 days ago

Leaving people in the dark? The PM himself is in the dark. He makes no sense.

A child would know that opening the borders to countries with millions of COVID 19 is a million times more dangerous than opening the beaches when there were no reported cases in such a long time.

Suddenly he finds two or three cases. REALLY.?.

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truetruebahamian 3 weeks, 4 days ago

For once birdiestrachan displays sound reasoning!

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joeblow 3 weeks, 4 days ago

... moments of mental clarity can occur in some PLP's, even at late stages of their disease (PLP-itis). To confirm presence of the disease however, if you insert "PLP says" in any sentence above, the response is bound to change!

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Proguing 3 weeks, 4 days ago

Keep the beaches closed until people learn to pick-up their trash!

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joeblow 3 weeks, 4 days ago

@Proguing... and stop leaving condoms all over the place!

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Chucky 3 weeks, 4 days ago

It is better to prevent the situation from happening than try to cure it afterwards, he said.

It would also be better for you dr Minnis to step down, rather than waiting until a civil uprising tosses you out of office. Better to preven that from happening huh doc!

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Slavemaster 3 weeks, 4 days ago

I concur just leave sir we your children of the Bahamas won't mist you as a matter fact we'll help u pack

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Slavemaster 3 weeks, 4 days ago

I think we should wake up as a nation n remove away from fnm n plp n begin to understand where we came from where we are now n where we are about to go. We can clearly see that Hubert is power drunk and acting insane. Yet his cronies slam and beat on the table so their lord and savior dont get up set with them. We are living in a time and time where it's so clear that hes ruling with a iron fist to instill fear in it's people. You listen to the COP speaks hes clearly rouge and gangsta and put us right back when people is now again saying f**k the police. Hubert minis I urge u to step out peacefully n quietly you will forever go down as the worst prime minister the country has ever saw or even the Caribbean. You have made us the laughing stock of the world and maybe in heaven to. Your own table slammers will turn on you soon. You like Perry Christie will cause your whole party to get sweep and there are some good men in there. But you huberty just cost them their salary

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happyfly 3 weeks, 2 days ago

Minnis and his emergency powers do not need a reason nor to provide an explanation of anything to anyone. Thank god some of the other people that we also voted in to represent us as a government are starting to stand up to this power-drunk fool. The PM has had more than enough time to develop a strategy to wind-up "emergency powers" and take steps to return the decision making process back to a balanced and functioning parliament - so grow a backbone all you MP's or you are going to spend the rest of your political careers listening to this man mumbling phrase and doing stupid and causing the people to hate you all

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carltonr61 3 weeks, 2 days ago

Why is the Police using the beach order to close down Baseroad wholesale Bar and others going on four days now of new harassment?

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