The strongest action yet taken to curtail the spread of COVID-19 was announced yesterday by Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis – the lockdown of Bimini for the rest of the month.
The island has been a hotspot for the virus, with two more cases yesterday bringing the total to 13 – and the lockdown is driven at least in part by islanders themselves calling for the move.
There are concerns of course about how it will operate – will people have enough food, will they have any medicine they are supposed to be taking, will it be properly monitored and so on.
Bimini residents themselves need no reminders of the danger of the virus – the first person to die from COVID-19 in The Bahamas was a Bimini woman.
They are also right in saying that beyond the lockdown itself there needs to be more widespread testing.
It is disconcerting to hear in response to concerns over food the comments of the island administrator, saying that “people have grown accustomed to having three meals a day, now we have to cut back and just ration”. This runs contrary to Dr Minnis’ promise that no Bahamian would go hungry.
With the lockdown starting on Monday, there are many questions for Bimini residents over how food will be supplied and what they need to do before the lockdown to get ready – particularly with Dr Minnis urging people to take measures now rather than waiting for the lockdown to start.
This is a moment the government must make sure they get right. This is a chance to stifle the virus in Bimini and bring to an end the community transmission.
The rush of people yesterday to receive $100 vouchers for food shows the need in the island – it was also an opportunity for the virus to transmit even further among those waiting.
Throughout this lockdown, residents need to be kept safe, kept fed and kept well. They need to be kept in touch with all that is being done to provide them with their needs.
And when it is over, thorough testing needs to be done to ensure the lockdown has succeeded in its goal.
More than anything, people need to make this lockdown count – or else it’s all for nothing.
Safety should be our guide
When the Prime Minister revised the emergency orders to explicitly state that webshops could not open under the curbside or delivery rules, was it all for safety reasons?
We certainly hope so – but there seemed something more to it than that. Whatever your feeling on webshops, they are a legitimate business these days, and if they can operate in a way that keeps employees and customers safe, there is a fair question to be asked about why they shouldn’t be open.
After all, given the economic crisis hitting us at present, those employees are at least still in jobs. Money in the pocket means money to pay for food, to pay for bills, to keep the economic wheel turning.
Indeed, looking back to when food stores were open but liquor stores were closed, other than the product being purchased was there any significant difference in the environment for shoppers in those two?
Measures should always be directed by medical need, of course, and so unnecessary activity is the key – people need food, they don’t need beer, but you hope that is the only guide and there is no streak of puritanism in what is being allowed to reopen.
Whatever the business or service – be it webshops or churches, or any one of a thousand other businesses – the crucial part is whether they can operate safely and minimise the risk of transmission. If they can do that, and show how they intend to do so, then being open for business keeps people in jobs. Safety should be our one and only guide in this.