PLP leader Philip 'Brave' Davis.
By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Senior Reporter
PROGRESSIVE Liberal Party leader Philip “Brave” Davis knocked Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis for “blaming Bahamians for his government’s failings” after a spike in COVID-19 cases prompted a U-turn on the decision to reopen the country’s borders to commercial flights.
He said in a press statement: “In June, as case counts began to rise rapidly in our nearest neighbour, we pointed out that the government was choosing to re-open our borders at a time of great risk, and needed to take every precaution necessary to protect Bahamians. Guided by the medical and public health experts on our PLP task force, we repeatedly talked about the need to re-open wisely and the importance of expanding our nation’s capacity for testing and contact tracing.
“If the country was free of COVID-19 at the time of re-opening, as the prime minister declared, then any new cases were imported. The focus therefore has to be at the borders. And yet the prime minister continues to focus on criticising Bahamians. When fresh air and exercise are critical to a nation under great stress, he closes the beaches, rather than set up guidelines to make them as safe as possible. There is no scientific basis for this decision, just a need to dictate to Bahamians.”
Mr Davis added: “It is not Bahamians who are at fault for this sudden rise in new infections. It is the government’s protocols that have been full of loopholes. It is also increasingly obvious the lack of proper enforcement at the borders has contributed to the resurgence of COVID-19.”
Mr Davis said the testing and contact tracing policy of the government remains weak and inadequate, adding Dr Minnis would be more successful if he focused on strengthening these than on curtailing “the rights and freedoms of Bahamians.”
He said allowing a 72-hour window for people traveling to places with rising case counts without having to present a negative COVID-19 test to return home was a decision not based on science.
He took aim at Tourism Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar’s recent statement that a few people slipped in the country without securing the right test.
“Who were they?” he said. “Where were they from? What happened to them? What has been done to remedy the protocols so that the situation isn’t repeated? Why hasn’t the government provided more details about how this was able to happen?”
The government announced a ban on commercial international travel by plane or boat beginning Wednesday, except for travel from the European Union, the United Kingdom and Canada, essentially cutting off most travel to the US. However travel from the US is still allowed on private aircraft and pleasure boat, something Mr Davis took issue with.
He added: “It makes no sense that the FNM administration continues to allow their wealthy friends to come and go as they like, on private boats and planes - this clearly presents a risk, as it did while Bahamians were fully locked down under curfew.”
He continued: “The situation in Grand Bahama is very troubling. Given the state of the healthcare system there, what is the government doing to ensure that Bahamians will be safely taken care of?
“The economic crisis is growing. Why then is BPL being allowed to consider disconnecting some 16,000 Bahamians? Depriving people of electricity and possibly water is likely to contribute to the health crisis.”