By INIGO ‘NAUGHTY’ ZENICAZELAYA
BY Wednesday past, having listened to the Prime Minister’s speech in the House of Assembly, Bahamians in New Providence and Abaco were singing that Solo tune made famous by talk show host Rodney Moncur: “Lockdown baby, lockdown baby.”
Maybe it wasn’t singing so much as crying while scrambling to find money to head to a food store to join lines longer than Rapunzel’s hair. What’s that you say? Rapunzel is a fairy tale? Well, so is believing that a $20 voucher - courtesy of the so-called feeding network - can feed a person (much less a family) for a week.
Yet, this is what Bahamians faced until it turned out to be all a mistake: twenty measly dollars to spend in the food store to prepare for a three-day “hard lockdown”. Even after the mistake was revealed, $40 isn’t going to go much farther.
It’s deliciously dumb to believe these meagre ‘handouts’ serve any purpose other than to frustrate the recipients. Worse still is watching Prime Minister Minnis regurgitate numbers like “a million dollars a week” of taxpayer money going to this programme knowing even Goldilocks couldn’t swallow those stats.
In true Minnis Administration fashion, the fault for the reduction in food assistance vouchers was placed (quite roughly) at the feet of Bahamians. Some people have been abusing the programme, they say. There was no mention of possible mismanagement of the programme that enabled the abuse that led to this disgrace.
Since we’re dealing in fairy tales, it’s like blaming Hansel and Gretel for being hungry and saying they should be happy to survive on candy because that’s better than starving in the woods. Never mind that they were in truth only fattened (with unhealthy food, I might add) to be supper themselves later. And never mind that their parents, who had the moral responsibility to feed them, were the ones who delivered them to a witch’s lair.
The lockdown itself is still a subject of bitter debate in this country. Will a hard lockdown temporarily slow the spread of COVID-19? Possibly. Is it an effective long term solution? No, it is not. But like Snow White reaching for a poisoned apple, our Prime Minister seems unable to resist a low-hanging lockdown fruit.
To listen to the Competent Authority tell the story, it would seem Bahamians are also to blame for the explosion in cases we have seen since July 1st. In making his latest weekend lockdown decree, an emphasis on Bahamians “partying” and Air BnBs as the causes of our predicament was implicit.
Yes, Bahamians need to do better in following safety protocols. And by “Bahamians”, that includes the party-animal members of parliament and government ministers who caught COVID or had to go into quarantine. But in the PM’s address, there was no apology or acknowledgment for the policies or poorly timed re-opening that led us to this place. Jack had to fight off the Giant (named COVID) because Jack planted the seeds.
So into lockdown we limp. We are Cinderella missing a shoe after the dance.
Meanwhile, business owners are afraid of the consequences of another series of lockdowns. Hotels are uncertain when and how they will resume business without effective mass testing protocols and affordable access to it.
In case you were wondering, the Ministry of Tourism is like Little Miss Muffet in this story, happily slopping up a bowl of tourist sponsored curds and whey only to abandon it at the appearance of a spider. Never mind that other multi-billion dollar corporations moved swiftly to protect their product, we, instead, chose to sit on our tuffet.
Take, for example, the National Basketball Association, which successfully created a bubble around their money-makers. What’s that, you ask? How can we bubble a country? Well, God has blessed us with an archipelago. Right now, New Providence and Abaco are on the bench, but the other islands can be marketed – aggressively – as our bubbles.
None of this will matter unless we figure out mass testing. According to worldometers.info, we are currently 108 in the world in testing as a percentage of the population. When it comes to testing - and contact tracing for that matter - we are like Sleeping Beauty, who has stumbled onto a thimble and fallen asleep.
So where do we go from here? Well, nowhere this weekend. But when we awaken from our slumber, we need to do better. We need to do better with wearing masks and social distancing. We need to do better with tests. We need to make a plan and see it through without panicking and locking everything down. We need to do a better job at leadership because Bahamians are hungry, and need to eat.
Have you heard the story of Hansel and Gretel? You’ll never believe what happened after they escaped starvation and certain death. They made their way back to their negligent parents’ home and then–