TOURISM Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar was adamant when he spoke up on Saturday about rapid antigen testing.
“The use of rapid antigen tests as an effective screening tool at the border was not supported by the available research or was not supported by the science.”
Well, that’s that, then. That sounds pretty definitive.
Except there was someone who disagreed with Mr D’Aguilar, who on October 25 said: “Having uninterrupted access to high-quality rapid antigen tests is a crucial component for us to begin reinvigorating our critically important tourism sector.”
The person with the wildly differing view to Mr D’Aguilar was… well, we hate to break it to him, but it’s Mr D’Aguilar.
The Tourism Minister managed to take opposing viewpoints within a week. So does this mean his earlier statement was not guided by the science? Are the tests no longer a crucial component? Which Mr D’Aguilar should we believe?
When a minister speaks to the people about matters rooted in science, they should absolutely make sure they get their facts right. If antigen tests weren’t so crucial after all, why did we spend so much time talking about them or – worse – letting the non-profit body Living With COVID Coalition set about rounding up three million such test kits to help the reopening, only to sideline their effort with only 72 hours to go before the country reopened to tourism.
It’s no wonder that Robert Myers, a principal with the non-profit, wearily said: “This is why I don’t like doing work for government.”
It’s probably an insight too into why Sandals last week lamented that The Bahamas was causing “confusion in the market” with its shifting COVID restrictions.
Mr Myers and his team had delivered the antigen tests throughout the country for use – only to find out they weren’t going to be used at all. Time, money and energy spent with none of it bearing fruit.
The concern is that antigen tests, according to deputy chief medical officer Dr Delon Brennen, from his base in Baltimore in the US, are of little use in picking up carriers of the virus who don’t have symptoms. As he said, if visitors have a PCR test taken within five days of travel showing they are clear, the antigen test would not likely show exposure since that first test anyway.
But why wasn’t that the position to begin with, rather than it emerging as a late reversal? Was adequate consultation carried out before committing to that original policy?
Mr Myers denounced the whole thing as a “bloody mess” – and it’s hard to argue. If this is how quickly policies can unravel, how confident can we be about any of our policies with regard to reopening to tourists at present?
Indeed, without the extra testing, what’s the crucial difference between this time and the reopening that brought us our fresh wave of cases in July?
If there is a clear, consistent plan guiding our actions in tackling COVID-19, this type of U-turn is not showing it. The government needs to inspire confidence that it knows what it is doing. This is doing the opposite.
Farewell, Sir Sean
He was the boy who grew up in poverty in Edinburgh to become one of the most famous actors alive.
Sean Connery was more than James Bond, the character he brought to life on the movie screen and launched a franchise that is still with us today. But it was James Bond that brought the star to The Bahamas – and here it is that he died at the weekend, in his sleep, with his family close by.
What has emerged since the news of his death was announced is the number of stories Bahamians have of encounters with the actor. He didn’t just retreat behind the walls of Lyford Cay and live in an ivory tower – he took part in the society around him. It was not just an appearance at the Bahamas International Film Festival, or coming out to support Bahamas Speed Week – it was the more everyday encounters that mean so many have a story about Sir Sean.
In today’s Tribune, we reprint an article by Sir Christopher Ondaatje looking back at the life of the man who would be king of the movie world for a time. We urge you to read it – it is also on our website, www.tribune242.com – and we would love to hear more of your memories of an acting giant who made our home his own.