AS The Bahamas busily prepares to reopen to tourists, there is an elephant in the room that we are struggling to address – the ongoing number of cases of COVID-19 in the United States.
Yesterday, there were 19,056 new cases in the US. The day before, there were 19,044, the day before that 18,905. Coronavirus doesn’t just go away because anyone declares it has – and the combination of protests across the US plus the reopening in different states gives the virus more targets to latch onto.
As of yesterday, there were 1,142,539 active cases in the United States. In fact, yesterday the United States had nearly double the number of deaths from the day before – 1,093 compared to 586. By comparison, The Bahamas presently has 25 active cases and thankfully hasn’t had a death in many weeks. Florida alone has now had 66,000 cases and still has more than 50,000 of those active.
The proposed July 1 reopening date is ticking closer and closer and COVID-19 is not going away in the US – so what do we do?
It’s a worry on the mind of Deputy Prime Minister Peter Turnquest – who yesterday admitted that there are concerns of an increased spread of the virus in the US, and said “that will have a lot of impact upon our reopening on July 1”.
We shouldn’t be afraid to say no. As a country, we can decide when we open our borders and who we open them to. We did this when we imposed restrictions on arrivals from China earlier in the outbreak – and we can be selective in how we lift our restrictions too.
Canada, for example, has had a fraction of the cases that the US has experienced – while there are countries around the world that have begun to emerge from COVID-19 and are reopening their borders. Norway and Denmark, for example, have reopened their borders to one another, while New Zealand has had no new cases of COVID-19 for more than two weeks.
So perhaps we should implement a threshold that countries have to attain before we lift the individual restriction.
That’s hardest of course for the US – the biggest share by far of our tourism market – but this is the world of tough choices we live in.
In the meantime, let’s restart our tourism sector. Earlier this year, we wrote in this column about offering up The Bahamas to Bahamians – giving our own people the chance to visit places they might not have been and enjoy the tourism facilities we champion as among the best in the world. Offer a discount to encourage local people to start getting back into tourism facilities – and show the world what it’s missing. Celebrate our nation, by letting our nation’s citizens embrace the beauty and the joy there is to offer.
And consider this – when a flight from Qatar touched down in Greece, 12 passengers tested positive on arrival. Greece quarantined all 91 passengers. Imagine that with each plane coming from Florida. Which is worse for The Bahamas – keeping the door closed, or quarantining hundreds, perhaps thousands, of tourists?
There is no easy decision here – and we urge the utmost caution from our decision makers.
Time to remove Columbus?
Columbus is a divisive figure. Perhaps there should be more agreement on his failings, but he remains celebrated by many.
This is a man who played his part in nearly driving the Taino to extinction, noted in his own logs his enslavement of indigenous people, handed out punishments of torture and mutilation – even cutting off the ears and nose of a man who stole corn before selling him into slavery – and presided over a rule of tyranny and brutality.
Even the King and Queen of Spain had him removed from power when accusations of his brutality reached their ears. These stories are told less often than his achievements as an explorer – but it’s the same man.
What, then, to do with the statue honouring him at Government House?
Looking to the east and west, the appetite for taking down statues is growing. In the US, Virginia plans to take down a statue to Confederate general Robert E Lee. In the UK, protestors took matters into their own hands, ripping down a statue of slave trader Edward Colston and tossing it in the river.
We’ve already tossed Discovery Day into history as a nation – replacing it with National Heroes Day – so what do we gain by keeping a statue of a torturer and sadist because of his fame as an explorer?
Nearly 8,000 people have signed a petition calling for the statue to be removed – which brings the conversation to the forefront.
It’s good to have that conversation – and we look forward to seeing the government address it. We’d also love to hear what our readers think – what do we do with monuments that honour those with a controversial history?