THE sun always shines in the world of Renward Wells.
As he drives to work, we suspect rainbows fill the skies and mermaids wave to him from the seas. Everything is wonderful – at least in his reality.
The Health Minister said he believes The Bahamas will achieve herd immunity against COVID-19 by the time the country enters the summer season.
Bullishly, he said: “Through the COVAX facility we’re supposed to get over 100,000 doses of the vaccines. We are right now looking at ways that we can source more AstraZeneca but given the fact of the amount of Bahamians who have already been exposed to COVID, you do the math, it says a lot of Bahamians have already been exposed based on the fact that we are about 8,700 positive.”
We are due to receive 100,000 doses from the COVAX facility – but only 33,600 doses are imminent. The rest, 64,200 doses, are not expected to arrive until the end of May.
How on Earth are we to achieve herd immunity by the start of the summer if the vaccines aren’t arriving until the day before summer starts?
Even that full 100,000 – added to the 20,000 from India – won’t be enough to reach the levels of immunity needed to protect the whole nation. All those who have received their first vaccination will also need a second dose before we get anywhere near the herd immunity Mr Wells suggests. It’s just three months away.
Experts estimate that somewhere between 70 percent and 85 percent of the population must be protected to suppress the spread – and with what we have, and what we are promised, isn’t enough to get us there.
Unless Mr Wells knows about a substantial number of doses coming our way soon, then the math doesn’t support his claim that herd immunity is just around the corner.
Does he know about extra vaccines? When asked, he said: “Bahamians can be assured that just like we brought in vaccines that we are going to get additional vaccines and continue our wonderful, excellent vaccination programme that is now underway in The Bahamas.”
That sounds like a no. Or perhaps a “we’re working on it”, plus some more rainbows and unicorns in the world where the vaccination programme is wonderful and excellent and not just starting out. Make no mistake, it’s made a solid start, but let’s not oversell it.
After all, the problem is that if you do pretend everything is wonderful and you minimise the threat of the virus, you might just make people think there’s nothing to worry about any more and out they go and catch COVID-19. You might put people off getting the vaccination because they think it doesn’t matter if we really are close to herd immunity. You also risk looking foolish.
In February last year, then US President Donald Trump said that the virus was “a problem that’s going to go away” and went on to say “…when you have 15 people, and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero, that’s a pretty good job we’ve done”.
He even said last February: “It’s going to disappear. One day – it’s like a miracle – it will disappear.”
The US has, of course, suffered 543,000 deaths since then.
Mr Wells could have given firmer answers on when we can expect the extra doses. But until we have those doses, we are a long way from reaching the herd immunity he talks about.
We invite Mr Wells to present his math – and as our teachers always used to say, show your work.
Same as it ever was
That’s the challenge from the Inter-American Bank to the government on raising infrastructure spending.
Did we really need to be told that? As we look around our country, can we not see the wilted and faded parts of our country that are in dire need of sprucing up?
How long have we heard about the need for airport improvements, for public transport improvements, and more?
The bank’s report even challenges the government to use the momentum created by the twin crises of Hurricane Dorian and COVID-19 to bring change. That sounds good, but many in areas hit by Hurricane Dorian will say there’s not a lot of momentum to be seen.
So, yes, being bold is a good idea to revive our nation. But then again, it always was.