COVID measures ‘can’t last forever’


Tribune Business Editor


The Bahamas “cannot continue to live under restrictive COVID-19 measures” if it wants its tourism industry and wider economy to fully rebound from the pandemic, a businessman said yesterday.

Ben Albury, Bahamas Bus and Truck’s general manager, told Tribune Business that COVID-19 was “something we have to learn to live with” despite the overwhelming pressures on the healthcare system given that it shows no signs of fading away.

Arguing that tourism will struggle to maintain its momentum amid curfews and emergency orders, he encouraged the incoming administration to review the health travel visa and PCR testing requirements that are impeding inter-island travel in The Bahamas.

Speaking to this newspaper before last night’s election results were unveiled, Mr Albury said: “COVID-19 is here and something we have to learn to live with. Our healthcare system has been neglected for too long, and some investment needs to be made there.

“We need to ride this out. Some people will sadly get sick, some people even worse, but we cannot continue to live under these restrictive measures. It’s been 18 months now. It’s exhausting and, unfortunately, appears not to be going anywhere. At some point we have to draw the line, boost healthcare services, keep our nurses and doctors happy, and try to move on with the provisions in place.

“This started as a two-week ‘flatten the curve’, and now almost two weeks later things are worse than ever. A lot more Bahamians are getting vaccinated, and are taking the protocols seriously and that’s all good, but at some point we cannot control people for ever. At some point people make bad decisions about their health. People live anyway they want up to 9pm, and even after that live how they want.”

Mr Albury argued that The Bahamas and its major industry cannot expect to fully recover if continually weighed down by COVID-19 restrictions, adding: “If our tourism industry is going to continue to rebound, it’s very difficult to invite people to the country when it’s under curfew and emergency orders.

“Hopefully, the new administration will look at the health travel visa and those things. It’s hurting the Family Islands. I hear a lot of people complaining that by the time they get the PCR tests and health travel visas, it can be very costly for a family of three to four. We need to boost travel from the inside. There’s a lot of challenges but sitting around and hoping the situation gets better, at this stage I don’t think it’s going to work.”

Mr Albury also urged the incoming administration to be a better communicator and more open to discussing the private sector’s problems, which include “dealing with the bureaucracy, dealing with all the issues that are plaguing small and medium-sized businesses and people trying to get a start”.

He added that the Government’s focus on attracting foreign direct investment (FDI) had sometimes resulted in small and medium-sized businesses “being neglected, and they’re the backbone of the economy.

“Whoever wins I hope they’re going to listen to the private sector. I think the private sector would love to be more involved as far as as giving input,” Mr Albury said. “We understand the Government needs to collect revenue, and there’s ways to do that without hurting businesses and consumers.

“It’s been a very hard two years for businesses. A lot of people are suffering, a lot of people are hurting. We need a government that is sensitive to that, and understands the plight small businesses go through every single day.  That’s the key, first and foremost. Hopefully it comes to pass.

“It’s been a rough road for a lot of people and a lot of industries. Government tends to take it for granted that businesses are doing well....... Just because you were elected to government doesn’t mean you know anything. Today, we need government to get involved in the sectors, find out what’s working, what isn’t working, and find out ways to give that help to the private sector,” he continued.

“Bahamians don’t want programmes and hand-outs. The vast majority of Bahamians want to stand on their own two feet, and feel they have a future for themselves and their families. We need to focus on physical health, but also need to focus on financial health at the same time. We’re going to have to roll up our sleeves and get to work.”


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