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Editorial: Talk To Bpl - Before They Turn Off Your Lights

THE go-ahead has been given for BPL to start disconnecting customers who can’t – or won’t – pay, and 16,000 could be cut off as a result.

That sounds harsh, but bear this in mind – BPL asked people to get in touch with them if they are in arrears so that a discussion could be had about how much could be paid and when. In short, to give BPL an idea of when payment might happen if it couldn’t happen now.

How many of those 16,000 got in touch knowing they had bills to pay? Just 78. That’s how many came in and set up payment plans with BPL to deal with arrears.

We all know how tough the economic situation is right now. We all know people who are on furlough, or have lost their jobs entirely, or are scraping to make ends meet as the country deals with COVID-19 and its fallout.

There will absolutely be people who can’t put anything on their bill right now, who are using the little money they have to keep a roof over their head or to put food on the table. That’s understandable – but that isn’t going to help when the utility starts shutting off the power.

Already, it has cut off 362 customers. Many people were struggling prior to April 1 when deferral of payments was brought in to help people during the pandemic. Those bills have been outstanding for a long time now and that’s the customers that are the biggest part of that 16,000 total.

Mass disconnections during a pandemic is almost unthinkable, and further intervention may well be necessary – particularly with travel from the US being shut off again and the impact that will have on jobs.

But for goodness’ sake, let BPL know your situation. If the company doesn’t know your position, you can’t be surprised when they don’t take your situation into account. Let them know, so that they can act accordingly. There’s no shame in reaching out for help when you need it, and pride won’t get you very far when you’re sitting in the dark.

Left in the dark on COVID - but then a glimmer of hope

When the news of yesterday’s new COVID-19 cases came, it came late.

It was nearly midnight when the numbers finally arrived, with the Bahamian media eagerly waiting to see the update after the previous day’s record single-day total of 21.

Leaving the media and the public waiting so long with the nation amid a surge of the virus was unprofessional. It also meant a bad start for the Ministry of Health under its new leader, Renward Wells. That needs to be fixed.

But when the numbers finally came, many will have breathed a slight sigh of relief that the numbers had held steady rather than skyrocketed further.

20 cases is no cause for celebration, but the numbers in Grand Bahama halved compared to the previous day. That was the hotspot we were all watching.

It doesn’t mean we should ease up on the restrictions about to be imposed there – but we can be thankful it wasn’t far worse.

Where we cannot be thankful is in the other cases. Half a dozen cases in New Providence is a spike we need to clamp down on. Worse news perhaps is the news of cases in other Family Islands. Two cases in Cat Island show the virus edging to the south for the first time, and two cases in Bimini show the virus has not been extinguished there.

Beyond that, we know very little. The announcement was sparse in its detail, which only increases the feeling that the handover at the top is not going smoothly. The statement did not even mention the Bimini cases – that had to be worked out from the numbers on the dashboard. Information is crucial to letting people know where the danger is – confusion here can be deadly.

The more islands that are affected, the more dangerous this virus is. When one island has a problem, it’s easier to focus attention there to squash the virus before it spreads. When it is running across a number of islands, it makes the battle harder.

We must hope the new lockdown in Grand Bahama will tackle the outbreak there – and we must keep doing everything we can to stop its spread elsewhere. Keep wearing masks. Keep your distance. Wash your hands regularly. And stay home if you don’t need to be out. Those simple measures can save lives.

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