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Lockdown 'death sentence' fears

• Gov't warned economy 'teetering on the edge'

• Non-full lockdown measures being assessed

• Sir Franklyn: Get COVID-19 'under control'

By NEIL HARTNELL

Tribune Business Editor

nhartnell@tribunemedia.net

The Government was yesterday warned that it will hand "a death sentence to an economy already teetering on the edge" if it reimposes a full New Providence lockdown to curb COVID-19's spread.

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Ben Albury

Ben Albury, Bahamas Bus and Truck's general manager, told Tribune Business many businesses "will not survive" further enforced closures and harsh restrictions after a number of entrepreneurs privately informing him they are prepared "to shut their doors and call it a day" if a complete economic lockdown is implemented.

Speaking after the Prime Minister hinted in his national address that more restrictions are almost inevitable for New Providence and Abaco, Mr Albury warned that the Government would face "much bigger problems" long-term if efforts to contain the COVID-19 pandemic "wiped out" a large proportion of the private sector and associated jobs.

Voicing sympathy for those who have lost loved ones to, or been infected by, COVID-19, he added that Dr Hubert Minnis' address had "seriously hurt" already-fragile business and investor confidence in the Bahamian economy's rebound prospects.

Urging the Prime Minister to provide more clarity and "avoid insinuations" regarding further restrictions, Mr Albury said any lockdown was likely to be futile when it came to reducing the COVID-19 infection rate due to the failure to enforce health protocols and punish violators with heavy fines.

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Sir Franklyn Wilson

He was backed to an extent by Sir Franklyn Wilson, the Arawak Homes and Sunshine Holdings chairman, who agreed that any further lockdown of the Bahamian capital will "put us closer to the cliff edge" when it came to both the economy's and government's financial health.

However, he agreed it would be almost impossible for the tourism industry to enjoy a strong re-opening with COVID-19 cases on New Providence increasing at the rate of between 50 to 100 per day, and amounting to some 499 last week alone.

Arguing that the Government had no choice but to bring the pandemic "under control" on the island that is home to two-thirds of The Bahamas' population, Sir Franklyn said a lockdown would have to be "pursued" if this was the best option available to it.

However, in a sign of how greatly the private sector has been spooked by Dr Minnis' national address, Mr Albury said the Bahamas Motor Dealers Association (BMDA), of which his company is a member, had already made its feelings clear within 24 hours through a letter sent to the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation (BCCEC) ahead of the latter's talks with the Government.

"I believe we're beyond the point of lockdowns. The economy is teetering on the edge," Mr Albury told Tribune Business. "There's a lot of people who are starving, a lot of people who haven't worked, the misery index is through the roof, and a lockdown would be a death sentence for an economy teetering on the edge.

"We've been fortunate in my industry to be busy, but as I move around and talk to workers in the hotel and entertainment sectors, there's a lot of industries that have suffered a devastating impact. There's a lot of business people who have said to me that if there's another lockdown they'll shut the doors and call it a day.

"It's interrupting the ordering process, it's interrupting cash flow. Our problem is lack of enforcement. You have foolish people out there not obeying the protocols and following what the Ministry of Health has recommended when it comes to mask wearing, washing hands and keeping a safe distance," Mr Albury added.

"In my opinion there's been a failure when it comes to enforcement. We come back out of lockdown after two, three or four weeks and the numbers come down, but foolish people are foolish people. Unless the Government gets serious about fines, penalties and enforcing the the regulations then things are not going to get any better.

"The numbers are going to go up once we re-open. We've had some of the most draconian measures as far as lockdowns, and where has it got us? We're one of the worst in the world for COVID-19."

Dr Minnis, who was yesterday said to be making good on his promise to consult the private sector and other stakeholders on the latest strategy to reduce the COVIOD-19 infection rate on New Providence and Abaco, has in the eyes of some boxed himself in by previously stating there would be no recourse to further lockdowns after the one imposed in August was aborted within one day after a botched implementation.

The Prime Minister, in his national address, said the Government was taking advice from the World Health Organisation (WHO), which has recommended against full lockdowns, and its regional affiliate in what some observers have interpreted as a move to provide him with cover on whatever decision is taken.

Sources familiar with developments, speaking to Tribune Business yesterday on condition of anonymity, said Dr Minnis was being advised against reverting to a complete lockdown due to the damage this would do to businesses and livelihoods.

Instead, they suggested he and the Government were being encouraged to extend the curfew hours on New Providence to start in late afternoon or early evening, bringing it forward several hours from the present 10pm as a means to curb evening socialising and partying.

While commerce would be permitted to continue from regular morning hours to mid-late afternoon, between 3pm to 5pm, between Monday and Friday on weekdays, this newspaper was told that non-essential businesses such as offices will have to close with all bar key personnel working remotely.

And the Government is also thought to be mulling a weekend lockdown as a means to curb large social gatherings, especially with the National Heroes Day holiday coming up this Monday. This will likely mean the renewed closure of beaches, parks and public spaces, while the extended curfew will further restrict opportunities for night-time businesses such as restaurants.

"If we don't do something quick we're in trouble," one source said, pointing to the imminent October 15 and November 1 re-openings of the tourism industry. "I don't see any alternative. He's [Dr Minnis] not going to do a very hard and fast lockdown. The advice he was given was to let business continue, but offices have to close and they've got to enforce the health protocols."

New Providence's high COVID-19 infection rate, with one in 100 residents now said to have caught the virus, represents a potential deterrent to visitor demand for a Bahamian vacation upon tourism's re-opening

And an advisory from the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which was posted on August 6, 2020, urges Americans to avoid "non-essential travel" to this nation due to the high risk of catching COVID-19.

"It's increasingly difficult to advertise The Bahamas as place to come to when the numbers are out of control," the source said. "We're playing high stakes Russian roulette right now, as is every country. We need people to come back here, and if they don't we're in deep trouble. Bahamians just don't seem to get it."

Mr Albury, meanwhile, pointed to the damage done by lockdowns to businesses, jobs, mental health, divorces and child, drug and alcohol abuse, as well as the difficulties experienced by persons with other serious illnesses in accessing the necessary treatment.

"If businesses are wiped out we will have a much bigger problem than we have now," he added. "To say we're going to lock the country down is just not feasible. The loss will be so much greater on so many levels if the Prime Minister decides to do this again.

"We desperately need foreign reserves, we desperately need tourism dollars. How do you do that with locking the country down? Much of this does not make sense."

Sir Franklyn, though, acknowledged the difficult balancing act the Government was facing in trying to save lives while doings its best to protect livelihoods. "The substance of the matter is we have to get this COVID issue under control in New Providence and as swiftly as it can be done," he told Tribune Business.

"We have to try and get through it, because the way we are doing it now is not working. Obviously a lockdown is problematic for the economy, difficult for the Treasury, but if that's the best available we've got to do it.

"The answer is, in my humble opinion, if that's the only thing we have to do, the only option available, we have to do pursue it but, let's face it, it clearly puts us closer to the cliff. I think the financial state of the country is very, very troubling; very, very troubling. We are where we are."

Comments

Porcupine 1 year, 10 months ago

"We're playing high stakes Russian roulette right now, as is every country. We need people to come back here, and if they don't we're in deep trouble. Bahamians just don't seem to get it."

"We come back out of lockdown after two, three or four weeks and the numbers come down, but foolish people are foolish people."

Just what, are these guys saying here?

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UN 1 year, 10 months ago

I’m just wondering why is it no matter what’s going on I obviously have to be near so that weirdos can have their fix (if she’s Lyford Cay we won’t see her anymore - how would we function?). I bet if you asked staff of banks, govt places, BEC, btc, etc if I’m on their minds daily, the answer would probably be yes. That’s normal? A woman who doesn’t care to know anything about them?

The last lockdown didn’t seem to do much, and hasn’t some experts said that lockdowns are ‘counterproductive’?

I wish someone would show integrity (she should be given her money - should not have to sit in a dump all day listening to babbling monkeys).

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MoAnn 1 year, 10 months ago

What exactly are you trying to say here? This post makes absolutely NO SENSE!!

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Honestman 1 year, 10 months ago

UN - clearly off his/her meds again.

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bahamianson 1 year, 10 months ago

STOP the AIRBNB , parties are going crazy!!!!!

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ColumbusPillow 1 year, 10 months ago

The PM says that there is ONE COVID death per day or 365 deaths in one year. Last year 2476 Bahamians died, a great number from the flu. So COVID fatality rate is only 1/6 of "normal". .Maybe the very high infection rate means that the PCR testing is far too sensitive; MR ALBURY HAS IT RIGHT!

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benniesun 1 year, 10 months ago

"Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is a method widely used to rapidly make millions to billions of copies of a specific DNA sample, allowing scientists to take a very small sample of DNA and amplify it to a large enough amount to study in detail."

A test sample is replicated a certain amount of times, and if the DNA tested for is present in a certain threshold quantity then you are deemed positive. The problem is that we all have the DNA material tested for in our bodies. The greater the amount of replication then the greater amount of so called covid material present.

Does anyone know what causes these quantities to fluctuate up and down? Maybe that grumpy cashier at the food store caused mine to go up, or maybe it is the threatened lockdown and depressed econonmy.

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joeblow 1 year, 10 months ago

This country suffers from a chronic lack of people with problem solving skills. They need to identify how the spread is taking place and put measures in place to address that. Consider both fines and/or revoking business licenses for places that are having parties and mass gatherings of people in the evenings and on weekend WITHOUT favor. This 'using a shotgun to kill a mosquito' approach is, well lets just say, unwise!

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MoAnn 1 year, 10 months ago

This is the most sensible comment so far but the sad thing is because kisses go by favor in this here Bahamas, as logical and sensible as this comment is, it's not going to happen. They will lock up yours and mine but when it comes to theirs, they turn a blind eye and therefore our cases will continue to rise until Covid-19 comes directly to their door.

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John 1 year, 10 months ago

The new update from the CDC (Comedians?) says that corona droplets are released in the air by an infected person and can remain in the air for HOURS after that person has left the area. So what does this say for persons going into banks and food stores and other high traffic areas, including malls? What does it say to banks and now some business establishments now asking patrons to 'remove their masks for the camera? . ‘ "CDC continues to believe, based on current science, that people are more likely to become infected the longer and closer they are to a person with COVID-19," the agency said in a statement on Monday.

"Today's update acknowledges the existence of some published reports showing limited, uncommon circumstances where people with COVID-19 infected others who were more than 6 feet away or shortly after the COVID-19-positive person left an area. In these instances, transmission occurred in poorly ventilated and enclosed spaces that often involved activities that caused heavier breathing, like singing or exercise. Such environments and activities may contribute to the buildup of virus-carrying particles."

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happyfly 1 year, 10 months ago

Lock down and the disease slows down. come out of lockdown and the disease courses through the nation once again. Somebody with some backbone needs to admit that these WHO lockdown guidelines are only to SLOW the spread - and at some point, we have to ask ourselves whether we want to get this over and done with, or drag it out until we are an economic basket case. Suffer through this crisis as a brave independent nation, or nanny down and hand our economic sovereignty over to the IMF, or worse, the CCP. In times of peril, no country yet has survived by hiding under the bed.

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Proguing 1 year, 10 months ago

It is very easy to call for lockdowns when one has a safe job paying full salary to work comfortably from home. It’s far less attractive an option for a small business owner facing ruin, or for the self-employed, facing ruin.

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avidreader 1 year, 10 months ago

The bottom line is that once the economy collapses completely then disorder follows with many rats deserting the sinking ship. There is not a government in the world that knows what to do in this situation. It is very likely that no government in this country has ever held a cabinet meeting during which planning for this present scenario was ever discussed or even considered. Like the old saying goes, you don't miss the water until the well runs dry. Wrong or ineffective actions now can result in a much worse outcome in the end.

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tribanon 1 year, 10 months ago

Mr Albury said any lockdown was likely to be futile when it came to reducing the COVID-19 infection rate due to the failure to enforce health protocols and punish violators with heavy fines.

Mr. Albury clearly does not realize that his remarks are actually inviting another unconstitutional lockdown. It's obvious Mr. Albury does not appreciate that New Providence is ablaze with the deadly Communist China Virus because of Minnis and D'Aguilar's stupidity in pre-maturely reopening our borders on July 1, combined with Minnis's ridiculous emergency orders that have put us at greater risk by keeping us locked up indoors and in close proximity to one another at crowded places like food stores.

And for Mr. Albury to think that heavy fines will somehow help reduce the spread of the deadly Communist China Virus by deterring other violators is really quite laughable when you consider most of the violators are already living in abject poverty with no financial means to pay even a small fine.

Truth be told, the vast majority of us Bahamians have no chance of ever seeing brighter days again until Minnis and his crew of co-incompetents are voted out of office for good.

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DDK 1 year, 10 months ago

Absolutely concur with that last paragraph. You did try to warn us! The problem, as before, remains, replace them with who or what?

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John 1 year, 10 months ago

The facts are, this second wave had a different level of contagion and a different fatality rate. Why have more members of parliament and persons working in those offices coming down with the virus? Yes government has a corundum. Obviously they cannot continue as business as usual but they cannot choke and strangle a dying economy and saying they are trying to save it? And the food stores have barely any restrictions or loss of operating hours since the pandemic started in March.

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proudloudandfnm 1 year, 10 months ago

Ben don't know his ass from a hole in the ground. Why is he being given a podium? I really don't care what Ben thinks...

Obviously Nassau needs another lockdown. Can't rely on the people to do the necessary so make them do what is needed. I don't think a 4 week lockdown is going to kill the economy as thoroughly as the virus running out of control.

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John 1 year, 10 months ago

House of Assembly has been suspended as another employee, who das exposed to some MP’s and senators tested positive for Corona

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ColumbusPillow 1 year, 10 months ago

Lockdowns are a mistake. The virus is most contagious for people in closed spaces whether stores, offices or HOMES..

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ThisIsOurs 1 year, 10 months ago

"we don't do something quick we're in trouble," one source said, pointing to the imminent October 15 and November 1 re-openings of the tourism industry"

this is almost hilarious. we're shutting diwn to reduce numbers so we can open the border, the cause of the high numbers. and with noone acknowledging that that was the source of the problem. If we spike to 20,000 cases they've literally killed the economy with another rushed border opening. whats the solution? an opening based on science not time.

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TalRussell 1 year, 10 months ago

Neither Comrades Frankie nor Benjamin has addressed why they've become the public face for sliding back to normal business, without first fixing in place the first line of protection proper virus Universal testing and tracking in place on each the out islands, cays, and rocks? Shakehead once for Yeah, Twice for Not?

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