OVER and over in the battle against COVID-19, we have said that our approach is led by advice from health experts.
Well, what if the health experts say our current approach is not working?
Dr Nikkiah Forbes has won much applause for her straight speaking during this crisis – and it is her voice we hear today as she raises questions about the effectiveness of the current approach. “I think that it is safe to say that partial lockdowns may not be effective,” she said yesterday. “It really depends on what people are doing outside of the curfew and restrictive period.”
In other words, it’s all very well people obeying the restrictions for a couple of days, but if it’s only for a couple of days and then everyone comes back out and mingles again and spreads the virus, you’ve lost the benefit of those days of isolation.
Dr Forbes said: “There are still a large amount of cases daily and I would say that cases haven’t gone down in this second wave that we’re seeing. As a matter of fact, we heard in the press conference last week that they’ve just gone up slightly in the last two weeks.”
She adds: “Now that being said, any restrictive measure that is put in place for a virus that transmits like this, you have to consider the incubation period. You won’t see the results until the end of one or possibly two incubation periods when you’re doing your restrictive measures.”
What are the signs of a system that’s not working? We’re seeing it now. Constantly increasing cases, a healthcare system struggling to deal with the number of patients, offices regularly closing for cleaning after exposure… look around, this is where we are now.
We say this with no joy because everyone in this fight wants it to work. So the question becomes, what now?
Repeating actions that aren’t working is the definition of madness, so do we supplement what we’re doing with extra measures or do we do something else?
The government seems focused on reopening to tourism less than two weeks from now, despite the virus being uncontrolled in our communities at present.
Is that swaying the government’s hand when it comes to applying extra measures? We cannot say, but we can say this – a senior health advisor is saying that these partial lockdowns aren’t working. What shall our response be to that?
We must wait and see, of course – but in the meantime, we must redouble our personal efforts to prevent the spread through those simple measures: wash your hands, wear a mask, keep your distance. Whatever comes next, we must get through this.
Truth about shanty towns
When it comes to failing to learn from what has gone before, let us look at another story today – about the residents of shanty towns in The Bahamas.
But before we do, let us take a step back in time – not far, just back to December 2018 when the results of a previous survey of shanty towns emerged. That survey showed that most shanty town dwellers in Abaco had legal status to live in the country – work permits, spousal permits, citizenship and so on. About 20 percent were undocumented.
Prior to that, 70 percent of shanty town residents in New Providence were reported to have a legal right to live in the country.
Fast forward to today’s story when, surprise surprise, the residents of a shanty town in North Andros are, by and large, people with work permits and not illegal residents. Over and over again, the same conclusion is drawn – and yet, what have we learned?
Minister of Works Desmond Bannister puts his finger on the problem in one respect, saying: “They are working in communities, but they don’t live in those communities and people have been getting work permits and leaving them to fend for themselves.”
It’s no surprise that if people arrive in this country on a work permit and are essentially abandoned to sort out accommodation for themselves, they’ll find it where they can get it – especially given how expensive the rental market is in The Bahamas.
Is the solution finding ways to provide affordable housing? Perhaps that might go some way towards an answer, but it’s not everything.
Either way, we should stop castigating the residents of these shanty towns as “illegals” when time and again that is shown to be untrue. Why do we demonise people who are just here to do the work we ask them to?