AN economic earthquake has hit The Bahamas.
The effects of the coronavirus aren’t just a tremor, but far greater than that.
Hotels are closing down and temporarily laying off staff, the US embassy has told US citizens to get home now or face being abroad for an indefinite period and around the world, coronavirus cases are increasing in number.
Financially, we face some very hard decisions, with Tourism Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar estimating that the unemployment rate is now probably more than 30 percent – and growing.
Already swollen by the job losses after Hurricane Dorian, coronavirus has hit our country in the place it depends on most – the tourism trade.
Make no mistake, this is going to be very hard.
We often talk about being a Christian country, and this is going to be a huge test of faith. We are going to have to help our neighbour, we are going to have to pull together.
We are also going to have to listen to what our government says and take it seriously.
Over the weekend, members of The Tribune staff saw people gathering in crowds against the government’s health advice – advice designed to help slow the spread of the coronavirus.
There were basketball matches going on by the bridge, people gathered round tables playing dominoes on Montagu Beach and at the park in Fox Hill, or groups partying on the beach.
It only takes one person in that crowd to have the virus and everyone could be taking it home to their loved ones, who may be older or more vulnerable to the virus. You aren’t just taking a chance for yourself, you’re taking a chance for the people you love.
You don’t have to look far in the news to see the consequences of such gatherings – a wedding in Australia led to dozens of people testing positive for coronavirus, a family dinner in New Jersey led to seven family members getting infected, and killing the mother and three of her children, with nearly 20 other relatives quarantined to their homes, waiting to find out if they are infected.
We are blessed so far to have far fewer cases than elsewhere – though that blessing is not felt by the patients fighting the disease, their relatives praying for them or the medics treating them while trying to avoid catching it themselves.
But the more we risk spreading this disease within our nation, the less likely it is that blessing will hold. It’s this simple – go out and meet up with groups and you could kill your family.
On the other hand, though, the more precautions you take, the quicker it might be that we stop the spread of this virus on our shores. The faster that happens, the sooner we’ll be able to resume life as close to normal as this disaster will allow. The sooner we’ll be able to be ready to open our doors again once other nations conclude their own battles. The sooner we’ll be able to recover.
This is literally a battle that you can help win by sitting at home and watching television. No heroics are required for most of us – though we salute all the essential workers out there taking risks so everyone else can stay home, from supermarket shelf stackers to health workers.
A wise general never fights a war on two fronts – let us deal with the war on the coronavirus so that we are fit to fight the war to rebuild our economy.
So listen to the government, stay at home, and offer up a prayer for our nation, and all those affected, be it those being treated in the hospital or those wondering what to do next with no job to go to this morning.
An economic earthquake has indeed hit us – but we must do all we can to minimise the aftershocks.
Sol Kerzner, a hero to The Bahamas
Sol Kerzner was a giant.
If coronavirus is an earthquake affecting the economy negatively, Mr Kerzner had as much an impact but as a positive. As we remember him after his death at the weekend, we cannot help but look at what he did for our nation.
When The Bahamas needed someone to step up to help reinvigorate the economy, Mr Kerzner was the man who stepped up.
With his son, Butch, they made a great team, and his huge investment in Paradise Island gave us Atlantis. We need only look at the impact of the sections of Atlantis closing down right now amid the current crisis to realise the sheer scale of what Mr Kerzner achieved.
He was not there as a foreign investor just to swoop and make his money with little care for the Bahamian culture either – indeed, he was a champion for Bahamians, giving opportunities to the likes of architect Jackson Burnside or turning to local companies to create the support network for Atlantis.
His work brought international stars to The Bahamas, major sporting events and more. Indeed, what he achieved at Atlantis raised the bar for other resorts. As the saying goes, a rising tide raises all boats. Mr Kerzner lifted us all up.
Perhaps the greatest tribute we can give is that as we face a new moment of having to reinvigorate our economy, the one thing we could wish for most of all is Sol at our side.
Just as he inspired the nation to raise its standards, so too now we hope his example inspires a new generation of business leaders, who can follow in his footsteps and raise our nation up once more.
Thank you for everything, Mr Kerzner. Rest well.