EDITOR, The Tribune.
The December 2019 SARS-CoV-2 outbreak in Wuhan, China has exacted an immense social, physical, economic, psychological and political toll on Bahamians. I was surprised to read the Ministry of Health and Wellness' statement concerning the 330 COVID-19 infections on Christmas Day. The Nassau Guardian's report that there were 580 cases between Thursday and Saturday of last week underscores the sobering fact that the Omicron variant of COVID-19, first detected in the African countries of Botswana and South Africa in November, has arrived. In one week, claimed a Ministry of Health official, The Bahamas recorded a staggering 889 infections, with the overwhelming majority being on 21/7 New Providence. What this suggests to me is that COVID-19 is politically neutral.
I am by no means a scientist. But based on my layman's understanding, the Delta, Beta, Delta AY.4.2 and Alpha were the COVID-19 variants in The Bahamas between early 2020 and late 2021. On September 16, Bahamians, suffering from COVID-19 fatigue, opted to elect the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) and Mr Philip Brave Davis, instead of the Free National Movement (FNM) and Dr Hubert Minnis. I have stated in this space previously that Minnis' popularity suffered a steep plunge after the advent of COVID-19, which singlehandedly brought the tourism sector and the entire Bahamian economy to their knees. Businesses were shuttered and tens of thousands of Bahamians were plunged into poverty. I believe that COVID-19 was undoubtedly the biggest factor in the FNM's general election loss. Bahamians were tired of the lockdowns and curfews. As competent authority, Minnis was scapegoated for the health pandemic and its attendant devastation of the economy. I recall the former Prime Minister being criticized for his handling of the health crisis, especially his decision to close the Bahamian borders.
When the COVID-19 numbers began to spike after Minnis reopened the borders, he was again criticised. For all intents and purposes, Minnis was placed between a rock and a hard place, due to circumstances far beyond this small nation's control. I also recall Minnis being routinely criticised by prominent clergymen for the FNM government's COVID-19 safety protocols for the church. With the advent of the Omicron variant and the uptick in infections, the Davis administration has implemented a safety policy nearly similar to what Minnis had imposed on the church, limiting indoor gatherings to 20 individuals. The one major difference, however, is the noticeable lack of opposition from the clergy fraternity. Moreover, the Princess Margaret Hospital and the healthcare system are currently experiencing manpower shortage due to COVID-19, yet the Bahamas Nurses Union (BNU), which was extremely confrontational with the FNM administration, has been somewhat benign towards the Davis administration. This might be due to the PLP listening to the concerns of the BNU and other unions – something its predecessor was accused of not doing.
As opposition leader, Davis signed a memorandum of understanding with the Trade Union Congress and the National Congress of Trade Unions Bahamas. Even the media has been uncharacteristically patient towards the Davis administration, something that the Minnis administration was not afforded near the tail end of its term. As Bahamians, we took out our frustration on Minnis for the COVID-19 pandemic. I believe the lack of opposition to the Davis administration over the uptick in COVID-19 infections and the new safety protocols is due to our collective embarrassment in how we reacted to the Minnis administration. This writer had made a conscious decision to stay far away from the polls on September 16. I too wanted Minnis gone. With the PLP winning 32 of the 39 seats in the House of Assembly, it was our way of punishing Minnis for the COVID-19 outbreak. With him no longer Prime Minister, who do we as Bahamians scapegoat for the current Omicron variant outbreak?
December 28, 2021.