THE whole story of the US couple who breached border restrictions has become a real mess.
Last week, Health Minister Dr Duane Sands told the country that two people were allowed into the country after arriving along with a donation of double swab diagnostic test kits.
Yesterday, the Prime Minister revealed the plane contained six permanent residents, not two – and confirmed that the protocol for allowing Bahamians and legal residents to enter the country had been breached.
Dr Sands will give a statement today – and hopefully put this unnecessary issue to bed.
We have learned that former Tourism Minister Obie Wilchcombe put Dr Sands in touch with the donors originally, and that current Tourism Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar played a part in ensuring the aircraft was allowed to enter the country after being informed by Dr Sands.
Dr Sands also received the go-ahead from Immigration and Customs for a request for the passengers to be quarantined on arrival – which sounds very different from the “last minute and unexpected” request for the donors to disembark that Dr Sands talked about last week.
It seems to us that what happened last week was simply that not enough questions were asked. There is a worldwide shortage of tests, swabs and all forms of personal protection equipment, which every nation is desperate to bring in. Perhaps an offer to help bridge the shortfall here meant some of the questions which should have been asked weren’t.
That lack of preparation was mirrored by the lack of solid information presented by Dr Sands at last week’s briefing, when he told the country two people were on board. A reporter at that briefing said they’d heard it was more than two – and Dr Sands now says that’s when he went back to find out how many were on board and who they were. That’s information he should have had when he spoke to the nation, not discovered afterwards.
There have been real positives to report lately in the battle against COVID-19, from the reduction in new cases, the donations by various parties and today the move to the next phase in kickstarting the economy – so all of this is a distraction that the government, and the country, could do without. Instead of spending time finding the next donation, Dr Sands is instead having to explain what happened – all because of skipping over checking the details.
When we talk of the need for government to do its due diligence in various matters, this is exactly why, to ensure everything is known ahead of time and done in the right way rather than leading to an awkward scramble afterwards.
We hope this can be resolved – and that the lesson is learned for the future.
Start of the recovery
The reopening starts here.
Today sees the country start to move to the next phase as we begin to move out from the lockdown.
Some of the moves seem very sensible. Allowing Family Islands where there has been no trace of the virus to get back to business seems a straightforward decision.
Other measures will require people to show discipline rather than rush to crowd newly opened stores and risk pushing up infection numbers.
That said, deliveries and curbside pick-ups from those businesses that can cater to that demand is a sensible way of getting the economy moving again. People spending money means people kept in jobs. Let’s just make sure we stick by the distancing measures and mask wearing – even as people rush to liquor stores today.
We have a long way to go but after a week with a limited increase in numbers, allowing more deliveries or pick-ups where people don’t even go into the store is a steady start. It’s also an encouragement to other businesses to find ways to operate in such a manner.
But the caution was there – we can step backwards on reopening too, so obey the safety rules and make sure we keep going forwards.