By MALCOLM STRACHAN
AFTER a year and a half of curfews, The Bahamas got back to a world where everyone didn’t have to get home by midnight. No more COVID Cinderellas, where instead of your car turning into a pumpkin after the clock struck 12, it turned into a fine or a court appearance instead.
On Friday, Health and Wellness Minister Dr Michael Darville tackled the topic head on. He said: “We understand the science. We understand what curfews mean. We’re not convinced that curfews (are) a true reflection of the science and of the reduction of the community spread.
“It has a place because when you have a curfew you actually can limit the movement of an individual at a particular time. What we’re saying is that we’re expecting Bahamians to be disciplined. We need to move forward.”
That might be a tall order.
In February this year, The Tribune visited Cabbage Beach Bar and Grill on Paradise Island after being alerted over large crowds there.
There were 85 cars strewn along both sides of the road approaching the bar and nearby corners, including a car with a red government plate on it.
No COVID test was required for entrance, and hardly a mask was in sight – although one senior corporation chairman was there, along with a well-known former Bahamasair pilot.
When police arrived, the reporter for The Tribune witnessed them chatting to management while drinking something from Styrofoam cups that had been given to them.
This was far from the only event to raise concerns through the time of curfews and COVID restrictions.
There was the wedding in Harbour Island where pictures and video went viral with no sign of social distancing protocols going on, and another wedding that featured more than the ten people allowed in Nassau, including a son of a top government official.
If this is the discipline we are depending on, we might have a challenge ahead.
Already, this weekend, there have been pictures online of people going out and gathering at events – some masked, some not.
The good news is COVID numbers have been dropping. On Wednesday, 14 new cases were recorded and on Thursday, six cases. We would of course like to see that drop further still, but we welcome the drop from the previous surge.
Perhaps more importantly, the number of people in hospital has also dropped, with 46 in hospital as of Thursday, and eight of those in intensive care.
Even better, the number of Bahamians who have been vaccinated continues to increase, with a goal of vaccinating half the nation by the end of the year. That may sound hopeful – but across the Caribbean 48 percent have been vaccinated, so we’re actually a little behind some of our neighbours.
That said, we are in a much better position than we were, of that there is no doubt. But we must be cautious and understand the pandemic is far from over. Indeed, earlier this month, former Health Minister Dr Duane Sands spoke on the matter, saying: “Let’s be grateful we don’t have 150 people hospitalised from COVID, that our emergency rooms are not over-run, but do not translate that into suggesting COVID is gone.
“We’ve seen three major spikes around the world – first, second and third wave.
“Let’s hope and pray that we don’t see a fourth, but unless there has been some dramatic change in the biology of this virus I think we are probably going to see another wave.”
Dr Darville, though, is confident, it seems. He said: “It is obvious that Bahamians are executing the necessary public health protocols and I feel confident that with the grace of God we’ll continue to this trajectory.”
On the other hand, he says: “My job is to find additional resources and bed space.
“I’m looking at that. Unfortunately, brick and mortar, that takes a while. So that’s not a short-term thing for me. I have to find access to additional field hospitals or the possibility for us to be able to do something very quickly as other countries in the Caribbean have done and so I’m looking.”
In other words, he’s hoping for the best but preparing for the worst.
Some of the restrictions we have been living under have been lifted, but with that freedom, we have to consider our responsibility to our fellow Bahamians. Just because we can doesn’t mean we should.
Last week, it was reported vaccination rates are slowing down, and there have been moves to go into community locations to try to encourage people to get vaccinated without having to travel a distance to one of the larger sites.
But a lot of this is going to come down to our actions.
It’s going to be up to us to get vaccinated. It’s going to be up to us to act with discipline.
With so much reluctance from some to get their vaccination, and too many occasions when we have seen little respect for such discipline, it’s hard to believe we’re not setting ourselves up for a new wave of cases.
The proof of this new strategy will be seen in the case numbers in the weeks ahead.
It’s a gamble we all should hope works out – for the good of everyone.