WITHOUT a single case of coronavirus yet recorded in The Bahamas, the economic effects arrived at our doorstep last night.
When US president Donald Trump announced a ban on travel from Europe to the United States, The Bahamas will suffer from the knock-on effects.
The ban is to last 30 days, and covers every country in Europe except, strangely, for the UK. There are direct flights from the UK to The Bahamas but visitors from around the world routinely come through the US to arrive at our shores. As the government yesterday told the media that it was only a matter of time before the first case of the coronavirus was identified in The Bahamas, so today they will have to pivot to deal with the economic blow that will come from an end of flights from Europe. The ban will start at midnight on Friday.
All manner of questions come to the fore – will people here at present be able to get home? What will be the impact for hotels from the ban? It’s not just people either, but supply chains that will be affected – a ban on flights will include air freight. Yesterday, Baha Mar reported that spring break bookings remain strong – we hope that remains the case with alarm bells ringing over international flights.
Meanwhile, across the US itself, large-scale events have been cancelled. The NBA last night was the latest to make an announcement, suspending its season as a Utah Jazz player was diagnosed with the coronavirus.
Excluding the UK also seems bizarre – given the country has already had 456 cases, a number that rose by 73 yesterday. It has a higher rate of infection so far than, for example, Portugal, Poland, and a number of Eastern European countries.
Still, this is where we are. There are more cases on the west coast of America than in some of those countries being banned, so is President Trump going to ban flights from there to the east coast next?
Thankfully, we have no reported cases here so far, and we expect vigilance will continue to try to prevent any spread within the community.
The government has taken steps – increasing death benefit of healthcare workers, for example, and clamping down on fake reports that make it harder to focus resources where they’re needed if people are having to take the time out of their day to verify false claims.
Health Minister Dr Duane Sands accepted it is only a matter of time before we get a case – but if we have as many preparations in place as possible and if people follow sensible precautions of washing hands and isolating themselves if they exhibit symptoms, we can hopefully stop one case becoming a hundred cases. Avoid contact, keep your distance, stop shaking hands, and if you feel ill, call a doctor and for goodness’ sake, stay away from the elderly or the vulnerable.
The country has 400 diagnostic tests available so far – not enough, the government itself is aware, as it has just ordered 500 more. We would hope there would be more beyond that too to enable widespread testing to track contacts of anyone who is diagnosed.
In Dr Sands’ worst case scenario, he predicts 400 confirmed cases in The Bahamas, with perhaps 100 needing hospital treatment.
What will life be like if a coronavirus outbreak occurs here? We would recommend all readers take the time to read Alessandro Sarno’s account. Known throughout The Bahamas as The Lonesome Photographer, he is presently trapped at home in a small village near Venice, in a country locked down as the virus spreads across Italy.
He reports being unable to leave his home unless there is a work or medical reason, an emergency or to go to the store or pharmacy. The streets are empty, the doors are shut.
That is what we are trying to prevent. That is why it is important to follow advice and take precautions.
No one in our leadership is taking this outbreak lightly. We must make sure we don’t either.