By YOURI KEMP
Tribune Business Reporter
Businesses yesterday urged the Government to avoid a “knee jerk” response to the rapid expansion of COVID-19 cases with 1,850 new infections reported over a five-day period.
Murray Sweeting, operations manager for Tru Bahamian Food Tour, told Tribune Business that despite the Omicron variant being more transmissible there is growing evidence that it is “less dangerous” than previous strains such as Delta. As a result, he argued that further restrictions on business and commercial activity should not be considered.
“It’s like the kiss of death,” he said if COVID-19 restrictions similar to those employed in 2020 are reintroduced. “I know the Government has to protect us and provide health and safety, but I think the counterpoint is they have been encouraging people to get vaccinated and encouraging only vaccinated people be allowed to sit inside and dine.”
“I think the control [of COVID] is only up to a point, and we need to modify according to the data that’s emerging and not according to the hype.....I think we need to fine tune the restrictions based on what the science” shows.
Mr Sweeting also urged The Bahamas not to simply follow other countries in the measures it employs to counter Omicron, and added: “How can we invite people to come to our country and we have these things in place that are many times more restrictive than their home destinations?
“Visitors are already having to wear masks, they’re already unable to sit indoors. It’s already quite sufficient. Why do we have to up the ante?”
Blasting the Government’s efforts to respond to COVID-19’s fast-paced evolution via legislation and accompanying regulations, rather than emergency orders, Mr Sweeting added: “Before we were protected by the constitution with the emergency orders, but now we have moved to another dynamic where the Government can basically put something through the House and push it through. We’re less protected now because we had the cushion of the constitution. What exactly is protecting us now?”
Peter Maury, owner of the Green Parrot and Margaritaville restaurants, added: “The thought of new restrictions is terrible. I think the incidence of a high rate of hospitalisations and things like that is just not happening.”
While The Bahamas has recorded 1,850 new COVID cases over a five-day period between Thursday, December 30, and Monday, January 3, hospital cases have been rising at a much more gradual rate. Some 58 persons were in hospital requiring COVID-related treatment as of yesterday, with just three in intensive care.
Mr Maury added that 2020’s full lockdown “killed businesses”, and The Bahamas must avoid a recurrence of that again. “It was making it hard for people to live, and there are still a lot of people out of work,” he said.
“I don’t even agree with the PCR testing on the seventh day. I think we’re just going to drive business out of the country. At some point we have to take into consideration our sovereignty. We don’t even have enough deposits to support our economy. It’s a big problem. On a bigger issue now, I don’t think the health is going to matter all that much.”