EDITOR, The Tribune.
The latest fit of hypocrisy to take hold here is the protestations from some Bahamians at the fact that the US is finally taking steps to bring its intractable Covid crisis to heel.
There is no uniform mask mandate and lockdown measures were few, limited and ineffective giving the US a global failing grade on pandemic management.
Starting this month, the US is finally implementing the same policy we put in place seven months ago. Anyone wishing to enter the US must present a negative result from a recent Covid test.
The howls and cries were quick. The same Bahamians who wouldn’t set foot in any of the 50 states tomorrow, somehow think it is brutish for the US not to realize the harm this public health policy will do to our tourism industry.
The sooner the US gets its own house in order, the faster we will recover here.
It doesn’t help to see self-righteous US-based travel agents writing to the press here to say our public health policies are forcing them to send their tourist customers elsewhere in the region with less stringent border formalities. Places like Cancun in Mexico where Covid cases are raging. Or the Dominican Republic which likewise is taking it on the chin because of rising Covid cases.
How quickly some forgot that we managed to keep Covid at bay until July when we flung our borders open allowing Bahamians to go to Florida and come right back without testing. The virus hitched a ride with many of them and our cases mounted.
Things are tough financially for many Bahamians, but it will get better. We need to applaud and thank the churches, charitable organisations, the public, social service safety net and even gambling houses for stepping up to feed thousands while we wait for the vaccine.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the American voice of science and sense put it best when he compared the vaccine to the cavalry riding in to rescue fighting troops. You don’t stop fighting just because they are on the way.
Covid is getting worse, not better, yet still we act with shock that some tourists seemingly don’t want to risk their lives at this time just to soak up the sun on our beaches.
For us, Covid has miraculously done what hurricanes and crime sprees in Florida haven’t been able to do. It has placed a pause on Bahamians flocking to Walmart, the Flea Market and the Sawgrass Mall in South Florida.
These often-frivolous shopping trips surely would have put added pressure on our health care system while completely wiping out our dwindling cushion of foreign exchange.
It was not encouraging to see tourism officials practically begging for an exemption from the new US testing protocols for those brave (or impetuous) Americans who still want to travel in Covid times.
Those officials should refer to the actual order from the Centers for Disease Control in the US. It was issued pursuant to their Public Health Service Act. The intent is to preserve human life.
It does allow for some exemptions but not based on economic pleas from foreign governments. It allows for airlines to ask for and get waivers from the policy if it can be demonstrated that a foreign country lacks available Covid testing capacity.
Such waivers will be good for 14 days and can be renewed by the CDC.
So instead of whining about the US regulation designed to protect its citizens, we ought to boost our own testing capacity throughout the country, making Covid testing readily available and cheap, if not free.
Tourists will only trickle in when the US gets a grip on the pandemic. With a new administration there, hopes are high for more civic and scientific engagement to vanquish Covid.
Until then we will have to draw our belts in yet another notch and plan for a robust tourist season starting this fall.
In the meantime, we could join the growing international consensus for a digital vaccination certificate to enable freedom of movement beginning with those who are vaccinated.
Vaccination is a key to safely reopening borders and stimulating tourism and economic recovery. Caricom should consider this initiative which will give everyone the confidence to fly into our region without the barrier of quarantine.
January 20, 2021