IN a surprise move, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis revealed emergency powers were to be extended again last night – this time until the far side of Christmas.
The extension will have to go through Parliament, of course, but the FNM’s majority makes it more than likely it will pass.
That said, the move came out of the blue, with numbers of new COVID-19 cases having been trending down lately.
Was the move prompted by the apparent inability of Bahamians to abide by the rules and continue to gather in numbers that break the emergency powers?
Was the wedding attended by the son of the Attorney General, a wedding whose groom works in the Ministry of Health, in Dr Minnis’ mind?
Did he see the scores of people in a nightclub in Palmdale showing no consideration whatsoever for efforts to limit the spread of the virus by crowding together in a close space, many of them not wearing masks? If ever there was a case of inconsiderate people taking a blunt stick to those who have been following the rules, then this was it.
Did he think to himself that if people can’t be trusted to abide by simple safety measures when emergency powers are in force then heaven help us all for how people would behave when they were lifted?
Or was it simply another case of the government making things up as they go along? After all, we see another example of that today too.
On one hand, you have the Prime Minister taking a stern tone yesterday, warning visitors that they face deportation if they do not complete a short survey each day for at least 14 days if they are in the country. Those who do not fill in the survey – including citizens, and residents after arrival – will be fined $100 a day or a week in prison. Visitors not only face those penalties but will also be stuck on a plane back out of the country.
That might sound tough – and to many minds impractical – but at the exact same time as the government is sounding so firm, it’s also revealing that visitors to Atlantis won’t need to take the antigen tests on the fifth day of their visit that are being required everywhere else.
The reasoning is that Atlantis is operating in a bubble – albeit one with workers coming in and out of the bubble. Just how big is this bubble too? It appears to include the Comfort Suites and even the Ocean Club golf course? What about the beaches? What if a visitor comes out of Atlantis, turns right and wanders off down the beach? Or will the beaches themselves be sealed off – cutting Bahamians off from Cabbage Beach? That would be a recipe for confrontation – leading rightfully to questions about how long access would be restricted and by what right.
What will the likes of Baha Mar think about guests at a competitor not having to go through testing while their own visitors still have to comply?
Given the number of U-turns this government has taken on tourism policy, we would not be surprised if some of these change again – particularly those heavy penalties on failing to take a survey, for example. What tourist will commit to coming for a visit if they risk a week in prison if their internet isn’t working properly for a day?
Still, this uneasy mix of sounding tough on one hand by extending powers and threatening fines, then letting others off on the other hand from restrictions just makes for a confusing message.
Bahamians who go out partying are helping no one in all of this. Every single person who chooses to put themselves and their desire for a night out drinking and partying with others ahead of the health of each and every one of their relatives deserves whatever penalty the law throws at them. This is selfish, appalling behaviour and each one of them should be ashamed. They should look their elderly relatives who are more vulnerable to COVID-19 in the eye and say they don’t care about them – because that’s exactly who they are putting most at risk.
So get ready for a lockdown Christmas, Bahamas. There’ll be plenty of blame to go around over the turkey at home – from the government for extending the powers to the selfish idiots thinking going dancing is more important than killing a virus.