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Alicia Wallace: Playing The Blame Game When Everyone Knew What Was Likely To Happen

The closure of beaches and parks needs to be reconsidered and we need an explanation for the closure of Arawak Cay and Potter’s Cay.

The closure of beaches and parks needs to be reconsidered and we need an explanation for the closure of Arawak Cay and Potter’s Cay.

The number of reported COVID-19 cases has been going up since the borders opened on July 1, so it is not a surprise that new restrictions were announced by the Prime Minister in the national address on Sunday. Everyone braced themselves for the worst. Some expected a full lockdown while others thought the borders would completely close without notice.

We have come to expect drastic changes with no time to prepare. This time, we were advised commercial flights and sea vessels would only be allowed from Canada, the UK and EU countries starting today. Beaches and parks in New Providence closed as of Monday at 5am. For Grand Bahama, where most of the new COVID-19 cases are, sweeping changes were announced which include a 7pm curfew and discontinuation of indoor dining.

The change that has drawn the most attention — including support and criticism — is the closure of the border to commercial flights from the US. Some were quick to point out it was “a bad PR move”. People have raised concerns about the US response to the decision which other countries have already made. There is no denying the US federal government has failed to effectively respond to the pandemic, leaving states to implement their own policies and regulations. Given its open and porous interstate borders, this means no state can fully manage the spread of COVID-19. The virus will continue to spread until a vaccine is introduced and widely administered unless there is comprehensive federal response. For these reasons, the number of infections in the US is likely to continue to rise quickly.

It was foolish to open our borders indiscriminately. We should never have accepted people from the US without more stringent precautions. As is often the case, the economy was prioritised. Public health was compromised in order to get more US dollars into the country. Anyone could have predicted the increase in COVID-19 cases here. Some argue that Bahamians are the cause of the increase as people have travelled since July 1. There is no way to know whether residents or visitors are the cause of new cases. We do know the opening of the border made it possible for people to travel to places with known spikes happening now. We also know that we have not been testing widely. Having fewer active cases on the dashboard did not mean there were no cases at all. It meant they had not been detected.

We find it easy to blame fellow Bahamians for anything that goes wrong.

Bahamians should not have travelled. What did they have to go to Florida for? Y’all too like shop. I thought y’all was broke. Y’all always making it worse for everyone else. Now the innocent gotta suffer for the guilty.

The “competent authority” decided to open the borders. He determined it was a worthwhile risk to allow people from all over the world to enter the country with the results of 10-day old tests. He also determined that it would be fine for Bahamians to leave the country for up to 72 hours and be able to return without a COVID-19 test.

How is it that people are now confidently putting the blame on the Bahamian people who did what the authorities said would be fine?

At this point, regardless of the rightful place for blame, we should be able to agree that there needed to be more restrictions on our borders. Many countries, including more than 20 EU countries, are closed to US travellers. This has, of course, made US news. In some cases, it is being framed as a “ban” on US travellers rather than a restriction that affects other countries as well.

While some Americans have made disgusting comments about The Bahamas and the possibility of the US withholding aid as punishment, many seemed to understand our position. One Twitter user asked: “Do you blame them? They don’t have the resources to handle a huge COVID outbreak.” Another said: “There is no logic in other countries allowing Americans across their borders as long as we refuse to address this pandemic on a national level.”

For weeks, Americans have been saying no country should let them in. Many of them do not even want to go outside to be among each other. Why should they be allowed to come here without a better system in place to protect public health?

In The Bahamas, we wear masks. Places of business provide hand sanitiser at the door. Cleaning methods and schedules have intensified. We are supposed to maintain social distance. We are, in many ways, doing what we can to protect ourselves and each other. Do we not deserve to have our efforts respected and to ensure they do not go to waste?

On the other hand, some of the measures put in place by the competent authority do not make sense. Why are the beaches in New Providence closed while people from different households can sit together in a restaurant, laughing, talking and eating? Are droplets not spreading in those close quarters? It does not make sense that large groups can congregate over a meal or drinks, but people cannot access beaches or parks where there is more space and people are more likely to spread out.

Mental health has not been an area of focus, but we know that it is being impacted by the sudden changes, financial stress and isolation. For many, beaches and parks have provided an affordable way to take care of ourselves, requiring a bit of gas, bus fare or a short walk. We find moments of peace, quiet and solitude in these spaces. Children can play, adults can relax and everyone can get some exercise. Making these public spaces inaccessible can significantly impact residents and make it even more difficult to manage during this challenging time.

The closure of beaches and parks needs to be reconsidered. The appropriate authorities need to come together to develop a plan to ensure they are safe and accessible to the public. We deserve leisure and beauty as much as we deserve good health, decent work and appropriate compensation.

In addition to the closure of beaches and parks, we need an explanation for the closure of Arawak Cay and Potter’s Cay. Other restaurants and takeaways are allowed to operate, but these small businesses have, yet again, been singled out. It is as though they are being punished, but we do not know their offence. How are the restaurants on Arawak Cay or Potter’s Cay different from other restaurants? There are indoor and outdoor dining options. Takeout has always been an option. They employ people with homes to maintain and families to feed, educate and entertain.

There is a police station at Arawak Cay and officers can be seen driving along the strip in a buggy. Are they not capable of enforcing regulations for dining? Even if, for some reason, dining is not permitted and the restaurants are limited to takeout, why can’t those officers enforce that? Those vendors and their employees should be able to earn their income and should not have to depend on the relief programme through NIB. Bahamian people should be able to walk up, get their conch salad and daiquiris, then sit by the beach to enjoy a few minutes of down time.

By now we understand that “normal” is not an option (and, in many ways, was not working anyway), but the least the authorities can do is make it make sense.

Comments

tribanon 2 months ago

Alicia Wallace was obviously on top of her game when she wrote this excellent piece for The Tribune.

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ISpeakFacts 2 months ago

The “competent authority” decided to open the borders. He determined it was a worthwhile risk to allow people from all over the world to enter the country with the results of 10-day old tests. He also determined that it would be fine for Bahamians to leave the country for up to 72 hours and be able to return without a COVID-19 test.

Excellent point that the D- population refuses to acknowledge, if no borders are open then no one can travel!!! Sadly Minnis and his "Yes Men" are too coward to even admit that they are in the wrong!

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rodentos 2 months ago

we will all die if can't dine in

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whogothere 2 months ago

So this little publication called the lancet dropped this doozy.... Guess what? - “rapid border closures, full lockdowns and widespread testing were not associated with reduced COVID-19 mortality.” Hmmmm... Hey Minnis you have anything to say???

https://www.thelancet.com/journals/ec...">https://www.thelancet.com/journals/ec...

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johnmcntsh 2 months ago

You have to read the study!! " The government policy of full lockdowns (vs. partial or curfews only) was strongly associated with recovery rates (RR=2.47; 95%CI: 1.08–5.64). Similarly, the number of days to any border closure was associated with the number of cases per million (RR=1.04; 95%CI: 1.01–1.08). This suggests that full lockdowns and early border closures may lessen the peak of transmission, and thus prevent health system overcapacity, which would facilitate increased recovery rates.

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whogothere 2 months ago

Yes I did. Please look at the wording more closely. I’m not talking about recovery rates or transmission rates. I ‘m talking about overall mortality. Death. The great beyond. Etc. That is what we’re trying to do here protect people from dying and according to this article border closures, full lockdown and increase testing extraordinarily is not associated with reduced COVID-19 MORTALITY all though they did limit the rate of transmission. Who gets covid matters - you can have High transmission rates and low death if the average age of infection is low. I think revelation here is that yes you can flatten the curve but basically once the Genie is out of the lamp there is not a lot you can do to protect people from death. This virus tends toward natural mortality so as the year goes the cumulative death falls within annual norms, adjusted for population growth and excess death because of lockdown collateral damage becomes more apparent and diverges from COVID19 deaths as well as seasonal mortality expectations.

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momoyama 2 months ago

Gotta love these dense Americans. Say they'll deny us "aid". Exactly what "aid" does the Bahamas get from the USA? You mean a couple of Navy surplus boats every few years so that we can help them police their marine borders for the drugs for which their addicted population is creating all the international demand? FYI, the Bahamas is a high income country and does not qualify for traditional "aid". All we have to do is grow up and start taxing the rich rather than the poor (like everyone except us does, including the USA) and we can afford to remain locked down for at least a year - which we may need to do until the hapless US government gets this virus under control in their own country.

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newcitizen 2 months ago

You are pretty clueless. Who do you think saved all of those people in Abaco after Dorian? Oh yeah, it was the Bahamian Coast Guard who's airlifted all of those people, definitely not those dense Americans.

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momoyama 2 months ago

....actually, we should by now have totally released the domestic economy from lockdown, as we had beaten the spread of the virus before these FNM morons opened the borders. It is the closure of our borders to Americans that we should have maintained for as long as necessary.

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My2Cents 2 months ago

Great piece, Alicia. Lots of nuances to the debate over opening and closure of the borders, but there are certain key things everyone should be able to agree on and consider. It was never a smart idea to close the beaches and parks. Common sense tells you the benefits to the public far outweigh the minor risks associated with congregating, which could have been managed. I was always puzzled by the fact that indoor dining and bars were allowed to open as early as they did, and why the vendors at Arawak Cay and Potter’s Cay dock are often targeted for closure as if they can’t safely provide takeout services like any other restaurant.

Lots of the decisions the government has made have not been based on science and mental health, but rather based on the advise of medical professionals pushing the same silly tropes about Bahamians not being able to behave or make wise decisions, as if we’re in kindergarten. Can’t wait for the educated youth and people with critical thinking skills like you and I to make decisions for this country.

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Wisdom4 2 months ago

Alicia Wallace, highlight some important points in her article. Thinking about the blame game "COVID-19" was discovered in China and the virus rapidly spread around the globe including the Bahamas. Nevertheless, I wonder why is China interested in the Bahamas? China has colonizes the Bahamas and the country has benefited financially from it's relationship with China. The global world including the US notice this can "Controversy"

Do we need restrictions on our borders due to COVID-19. Yes! wearing a mask at the airport, on commercial planes and regular temperature check also limited number of people on flights can be a good strategy as well. How can we jump start the tourist industry if our borders remain close.

Many Bahamian workers depend on the tourist industry as income and part of their livelihood. oppressing people with another restrictions and lock down is not going to help the issue only make things worst for the Bahamian people. Every country throughout the world is struggling with COVID-19. We have to get the economy back on track and people to work. Closing down Arawak Cay and other business is not the solution.

What happens to the Bahamian students that has to return back too college in the United States this fall?

If people can follow the health guidelines during COVID-19 pandemic and using these precaution can help prevent the spread.

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themessenger 2 months ago

"We find it easy to blame fellow Bahamians for anything that goes wrong." Really Ms. Wallace? In my experience, we Bahamians find it easy to blame anyone but ourselves for anything that goes wrong. Very convenient having dem furriners around, at least we ain't beating the Hyshuns or the Yardies this time. One of our people's biggest failings is to accept responsibility for their own actions or life choices.

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birdiestrachan 2 months ago

The beach is refreshing, walking in the water is therapy. watching the sun rise approximately 6:33 am Is God's Gift to the Bahamas.

No one goes to the beach 5 am to keep a party.

It is wrong for doc to take away God's gift to us,

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