PRIME Minister Dr Hubert Minnis has made his move – and once again we prepare for a diet of curfews and lockdowns.
The clampdown is harsh – with a 7pm curfew and, because Dr Minnis can’t see a holiday weekend coming without thinking about lockdowns, we’re all going to be shut down until Tuesday morning.
There are other measures too – doubling fines for breaching health protocols, a hotline for reporting social gatherings, and so on. All this while the date for reopening the country’s tourism sector remains unmoved from November 1.
With the lockdown starting on Friday at 7pm, we can expect the stores will be crowded until then as people stock up. At least this time, there has been some warning, unlike in August when Dr Minnis broke the bond of trust with the people by shutting the country down without advance notice, leaving people whose cupboards were bare wondering how they would be able to eat or drink.
That prompted a swift U-turn, with the country suddenly opening up more than it had previously – and looking back now, it feels as if that moment was a crucial one for the country.
Perhaps chastened by the response from people worrying about how they could survive without warning of a lockdown, Dr Minnis rowed too far back. Perhaps if he hadn’t overreached then, we might have had a stiff lockdown that could have stifled the wave of cases we are still experiencing today. Yesterday saw another 81 cases confirmed, 77 of those in New Providence.
The other islands watch on as this new lockdown hits New Providence and Abaco, and perhaps Family Islanders are wondering why it is they can get their house in order, but the capital and Abaco cannot.
Mixed messages haven’t helped, certainly, but there is also a question of discipline. Discipline on the part of people following the rules – and discipline in terms of those rules being enforced.
It’s all well and good doubling fines, but that doesn’t help much if there’s not enough boots on the ground to apply those fines and to stop gatherings.
The tourism industry too will be suffering from those mixed messages – as they try to figure out how to sell people a holiday to come and visit in just three weeks’ time while at the same time trying to convince visitors that the newly introduced lockdowns won’t be a problem.
Meanwhile, Dr Minnis is urging entrepreneurs to create T-shirts saying let’s fight COVID together – a tricky thing to do with their businesses in lockdown and no way to sell them on the streets.
But let’s be clear about this: Dr Minnis is right when he says “this is the worst crisis The Bahamas has faced in its modern history. We are living in an unprecedented global emergency. Each day is an emergency and we have to constantly make adjustments, day in and day out, sometimes on an hourly basis. This is going to be our reality for some time. Anyone who tells you otherwise does not understand this moment in history.”
We might have gripes about the manner in which the government is sailing these choppy seas, we might wish it was doing better at managing this crisis, we might wish it was being more creative in ways to get life back to some semblance of normality.
But we do have to beat this virus. Our cases are far higher than they should be – and while there might have been missed opportunities in the past, that doesn’t mean we can shirk the needs of the present.
Follow the rules. Stay away from gatherings. Wash your hands. Wear a mask. Keep your distance.
We keep running out of chances – let’s not wait until our last one.
THE NHI has announced it plans to expand services.
Sounds good, but don’t expect it in a hurry. It really only exists in a policy paper so far, and a piece of paper is not a promise something will definitely happen.
Indeed, in the middle of a pandemic when the nation is short of money, it’s a particularly expert piece of kite flying. It looks good, but it’s not landing any time soon.
We wish the plan the best of luck. More Bahamians deserve to have healthcare than currently do, but of course there are hurdles to cross before they get it.
The key phrase in our story today to take note of is that a timeline for the initiative was not announced.
Consultation is under way. We hope it moves faster than the consultation on legalising marijuana.