PIECE by piece, The Bahamas is putting the building blocks in place to protect the country as best as possible from the risk of the coronavirus.
We need not look far for the effects of the virus around the world – the empty streets in China, a deserted Disney park in Singapore, and even just across the water in Florida, a music festival, Ultra, yesterday postponed until next year. Sporting fixtures in Italy are being played behind closed doors, with no fans to cheer on the players, and the country is closing down its schools and universities until mid-March. Large gatherings have been banned in France. The world is taking the virus seriously, and so should we.
So it is reassuring to see in today’s Tribune the images of medical personnel training with the equipment they will use to deal with people who potentially have the virus.
It is also reassuring to see the government put in place the necessary declaration to control travel from China.
We hope the government is keeping a watchful eye on other areas with high levels of infection. South Korea had 145 new cases yesterday, not far behind the 160 new cases in China, even if it lags some way behind on total cases still, while Italy has been the hotspot in Europe, with more than 3,000 cases so far. Japan has had more than 300 cases, while the US, our biggest concern as a neighbour, has logged 159 cases, with 11 deaths. Last night, around 1,000 New Yorkers were being asked to self-quarantine after five more people were diagnosed with the virus.
It seems almost impossible that the same declaration that has been placed on China also will be placed on the US if the infection spreads widely there, if nothing else because of the chilling economic reality that would mean for the country.
In Parliament yesterday, Deputy Prime Minister Peter Turnquest said the outbreak “is creating an immediate threat to the safety of our citizens and the near term performance of our economy”.
While concern does not need to be panic, Bahamians it seems have been taking precautions, with sales of hand sanitizer and cleaning items up at local supermarkets.
That is sensible – as is the need for people to regularly use that sanitizer or wash their hands for at least 20 seconds regularly.
In short, it is not just the government that needs to be prepared, but all of us. More changes may need to come if the virus does reach here – and as a country we should do all we can to support any measures to prevent its spread.
In the meanwhile, after washing those hands thoroughly? Let’s keep our fingers crossed that it won’t reach here.
Stirring trouble at the prison?
Is the government picking an unnecessary fight?
The announcement of an increase in the retirement age of prison officers from 50 to 55 seems like it might stir up unrest among correctional staff, at a time when officers have already had a number of complaints about treatment by management and conditions at Fox Hill prison.
Prison association officials were close-lipped last night, but we do wonder if it will stir up tempers rather than soothe troubled waters.
That wasn’t National Security Minister Marvin Dames’ only announcement yesterday – the Spy Bill is now in force. Of course, its formal name is the Interception of Communications Act, but as it was called the Spy Bill when the FNM were opposing it in opposition, so Spy Bill it shall remain.
Since February 13, it has empowered the obtaining of warrants to set up interception devices in institutions secretly, and allows the minister of national security – Mr Dames – to allow authorised people to use a listening device for no more than 30 days. The attorney general can allow that too.
It’s now nearly a month since that came into force – so we guess that was one more secret for the past few weeks…