By EARYEL BOWLEG
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE president of the Consultant Physicians Staff Association has highlighted concerns surrounding Friday’s nomination day fanfare, saying it could contribute to the spread of COVID-19 while the country’s health system is in a precarious state.
The day drew scores of people in support of various hopefuls as they each submitted documents and paid $400 to officially nominate as candidates vying for Election Day.
Videos and pictures of motorcades and celebratory gatherings, including a Junkanoo contingent in at least one instance, have been criticised by the public as being careless given the ongoing pandemic and fears about the contagious Delta variant.
Dr Sabriquet Pinder-Butler explained yesterday the dangerous impact activities such as were seen on Friday could have on the spread of the virus.
“We do know that not wearing masks, large gatherings, etc, has a tendency to cause further increase in the spread of COVID,” Dr Pinder-Butler said.
“People were hugging, shaking hands – all of those things – and so we’re really hopeful that they were sanitising and keeping those things in mind.
“Unfortunately, we knew from what we’ve seen in other countries that certain events like those does cause further increase in cases and so when we are already in a serious critical state in the country – as we are in this COVID pandemic – and you know severe cases will increase loss of life that we’ve seen certainly in this month of August, that is something that is most troubling.”
There was some public backlash sparked by the scenes outside of Carlton Francis Primary School where candidates for the Bamboo Town constituency nominated.
Health Minister Renward Wells is the Free National Movement’s incumbent candidate.
While they were wearing masks, The Tribune witnessed few social distancing protocols by supporters of respective political parties while at the nomination site.
Dr Pinder-Butler said she did not see clips of this particular event involving Mr Wells, but noted it is very important for people to “lead by example”.
“Certainly, as Minister of Health, certainly as Prime Minister, and all of us who encourage others to do the right thing — we talk about wearing masks, we talk about avoiding large gatherings. We talk about penalties that should be in place for when persons break these laws or preventative measures.
“So, I would imagine there is a video circulating and it is showing Minister Wells or any other persons in those positions to be involved in that, that would be concerning because it also sends mixed messages to our people, which is something that we’ve been challenged with throughout the handling of this pandemic and even worse as we now continue to have people dying every day from COVID.
“We know that the healthcare system is beyond capacity, and we know that physicians, nurses, and everyone else in health is struggling now with what we have. To have events further increase the burden on the healthcare workers is a bit irresponsible at this time.”
Dr Pinder-Butler also questioned what protocols will be in place on Election Day – September 16.
“Are persons going to be able to properly social distance? Are persons going to be in their cars? I know customarily everyone dips in the same ink. Have we given thought to how that’s going to work during this COVID time?” she asked.
Mr Wells has said there will be sanitizer on site to ensure clean hands when voting.
“I don’t know that it would be wise for everyone, and I don’t think it would (be) responsible to have everyone putting their hand in the same ink,” she added. “I hope that all of these things have been given serious thought and if they haven’t they need to at this very moment with the short time that we have left until Election Day.”
Earlier this month, Dr Pinder-Butler said senior doctors along with other medical workers who have shouldered the burden of a COVID-19 induced near collapse of the nation’s healthcare systems were distressed by Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis calling a snap election.
She said not only was the news ill timed, but it was “troubling” because both private and public facilities were already overwhelmed.
The senior doctor said it was extremely “frightening” to come to grips with what now looks like an inevitable skyrocketing of COVID-19 cases in the lead up to the general election.
Before Dr Pinder-Butler’s fears were laid bare, Chief Medical Officer Dr Pearl McMillan told reporters that officials were hoping that people followed measures put in place to safeguard against contracting the virus.