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Insight: Forget Halloween, Is November 1 The Day We Should Be Really Scared Of?

By MALCOLM STRACHAN

JUST a mere six days from now, we will be taking our second crack at reopening the tourism sector. Here it is, COVID-19 cases are surging with no flattening of the curve in sight, despite the reinstitution of stricter containment measures.

While some citizens are following health protocols such as mask-wearing, good hygiene and social distancing, others refuse to heed the constant warnings from the experts. Take into account how struggling businesses whose operations do not fit well with the recommended curbside models, together with the reality that this pandemic has a lot more mileage left to go, and we can agree we’re in a giant heap of trouble.

Thus, it is with much apprehension and trepidation that we may be welcoming tourists on November 1. It’s a Catch-22 of sorts. We know we need the tourism injection - or an injection of any sort - into our economy, but with our public health system in crisis, we are not ready to handle what may be at stake.

Nor could we find comfort in the policymakers who weighed the cost and decided this was the way forward – especially when considering our 21 percent positivity rate being four times higher than what has been advised by the World Health Organization.

This is a difficult balancing act, but sometimes it is best to know when it’s time to get up from the blackjack table and walk away.

We are simply not ready yet. And as these sentiments have been echoed by some local health officials, it is discouraging in more ways than one why such prudent advice is being ignored. For one, it indicates to us how desperate we are for any kind of income. Like a gambler that ran through a string of bad hands, we are hoping – praying - that we will be able to win it all back, or at the very least, stop the bleeding for a period of time.

Further, we ask ourselves the question - “What if?” What if we hadn’t opened prematurely in July? What if we didn’t allow citizens to fly to hotspots in the US without proper measures being in place for their return? Those mistakes will be firmly etched in the history books.

Without a reopening plan that reflects the fluidity of the state of affairs and addresses not just our economic needs but also our health infrastructure challenges, it may be eerily ironic that the reopening is a day after Halloween. COVID-19 has indeed been a nightmare for our country, along with many others around the world. However, you can’t help but feel frustrated that we should have been doing better than this.

With the healthcare system bloated to the point of explosion, we are all rooting for the government to play its hand well.

When we hear Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest discuss the possibility of unemployment benefits decreasing to $75 per week, on one hand, you can certainly credit the government for not wanting to leave its people behind. But at the same time as that heavy feeling sinks into your gut, you are certain that we are in trouble when we consider the thousands of Bahamians who aren’t even getting that much on a weekly basis.

With the majority of cases coming in what has been our second wave - and lockdowns and curfews proving ineffective in flattening the curve this time around - we have yet been able to figure out how to balance reopening the economy with the proper management of our public health system. If we can be honest with ourselves, who would want to travel in large numbers to a COVID-19 hotspot? And while we may be banking on there being a courageous few, our most prominent resorts are being much more conservative as their doors remain firmly closed while the pandemic is still raging.

The country’s focus must be on widespread testing which is free and accessible to all Bahamians. Bahamians having to scrounge up a couple hundred dollars for a COVID test, which they may not even have, juxtaposed with the high levels of unemployment is just simply impractical.

And without any rhyme or reason to locking the country down to supposedly get ready for another half-hearted tourism opening, one can’t help but wonder if any of this makes sense.

The cost being levied on citizens is far too great. And as we simultaneously are not helping ourselves in a densely populated New Providence, it would seem as though we are on the verge of exacerbating already difficult circumstances even further.

As we’ve noted before, desperation lays waste to measured thinking.

The science doesn’t support us opening right now.

And soon enough, if we move ahead in this state of unpreparedness, the proof will be laid bare for the world to see.

Comments

John 1 month, 1 week ago

Four days with a go 50 plus percent decline in numbers, there is light at the end of the tunnel. But will the government repeat the same mistake and going open the borders? Not only for tourists coming in, but for Bahamians and residents going out and coming back in. Can proper measures and controls be put in place to prevent a new strain of Covid-29 coming in or should this event be suspended to December? America continues to see record cases and more deaths and more persons requiring hospitalizations

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Honestman 1 month, 1 week ago

Totally agree with this article. The quote that stands out is "desperation lays waste to measured thinking". This is exactly where government is this morning. How in God's earth can we be ready to open up our economy with all major hotels closed, infection rates uncontrolled and our hospitals overwhelmed? The 1st July opening was indeed a disaster, a mistake that the PM and the FNM will likely pay dearly for. The government doesn't seem to have a plan to lead us out of this crisis. It looks like it's a case of "let's just open up and hope for the best". Meanwhile the DPM is reportedly considering reducing unemployment benefit to $75 per week whilst civil servants remain on full pay. This is wholly unjust.

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benniesun 1 month, 1 week ago

Major countries are planning tighter lockdowns, and also planning for restricting movement of citizens within their home countries. This is the trend and the direction the world is headed. It is crystal clear that the elite of TPTB desire very limited travel worldwide; we do not need to read tea leaves to discern this. We are only at the beginning of this economic crisis, yet the government of the Bahamas has not made any significant effort to ensure that we grow most of our food. The scarcity has just begun.

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whogothere 1 month, 1 week ago

Are we forgetting that tourism did not play a pivotal role in the outbreak in the Bahamas? Tourist reflect the most tested segment of economy next to nurses and health professionals. What is the risk? The bigger concern is rather whether or not Bahamians will infect tourists in any significant proportion...I think not - the only serious mixing of the domestic and international population is likely only to occur in night clubs or restaurants...most of which are closed or outdoors at least in the family islands. Tourist were never the problem, governments failure to apply the same testing measures for Bahamians in July was the issue now remedied. Costumes are for Halloween let’s not dress up the ‘reopening’ to be scarier than it is...

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