Hon. Philip Davis, Q.C., M.P.
Commonwealth of The Bahamas
This evening, the Prime Minister announced that Cat Island and North and Central Andros will be placed under a 14-day lockdown.
These restrictions, which prohibit all in-person activities, including burials, will cause great hardship to the Bahamians living on these islands.
The lockdowns are a response to outbreaks that began earlier this month – outbreaks that could have and should have been stopped with testing, contact tracing, and the isolation of positive cases.
Because the government did not move swiftly to offer free and widespread testing for island residents, Cat Islanders and Androsians are now being forced into lockdown, suspending all activities after more than a year of brutal economic pain.
These lockdowns are the direct consequence of the Prime Minister’s failure to plan ahead or to move quickly, a Prime Minister who is always reactive, never proactive.
Tomorrow, before the lockdown begins, we will be conducting a free testing operation in Cat Island, to advise Cat Islanders of their COVID status before the 14-day lockdown begins. Those who test positive on an antigen test will be given a follow-up PCR test. The results will be given to the Ministry of Health. Once someone has received confirmation from the Ministry of Health that they are positive, they can take steps to protect others in their households. As we all know, Bahamians of multiple generations often share a home. Those who have the virus should stay isolated within their own household to the extent that is practical. Windows should be opened – this is an airborne virus, and virus particles can hang in the air for hours, thus ventilation is an important tool. Those who test positive and those who live with someone who tests positive should wear two masks; double masking adds another layer of protection. Outdoors is safer for everyone than indoors. The Prime Minister somehow always misses an opportunity to advise Bahamians of these simple, inexpensive steps that can help keep our families safer.
The Prime Minister said vaccinations are the pathway to ending the emergency phase. Vaccines are indeed critical, which is why it is so enraging that our country was 17 th in the region to begin offering vaccines, and why it is infuriating that the Competent Authority has not invested more
in effective public education, and why it is maddening that the Competent Authority did not begin offering vaccinations to numerous Family Islands until the end of April, even though vulnerable Bahamians on those islands should have been offered the vaccinations much earlier. In late January and early February of this year, the government was offered the opportunity to bring in Moderna, Pfizer and additional AstraZeneca vaccines, and refused. COVAX was never intended to be the main source of any country’s vaccines, yet this government has done very little to source them elsewhere.
As a result, our country lags behind others in the region; many Caribbean countries have vaccinated a larger percentage of their populations, including Antigua, Barbados, Saint Lucia, Turks and Caicos, the Dominican Republic, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Curacao, and others. We need to fix both the supply and the demand problem in our country when it comes to vaccines. The government has shown no ability to address either, but we hope they discover the aptitude to do so sooner rather than later because it is urgent.
In the meantime, and this has been evident for a long time, it is testing that works alongside vaccines to help countries get ahead of outbreaks. It is extraordinary that during his lengthy national address (and we note that once again, there was no opportunity for the press to ask questions), not once did the Prime Minister mention testing.
We have been advocating for widespread testing since last spring and we have been advocating for free testing since October of last year. Although other countries in our region have offered their citizens free testing, the Prime Minister called the idea a fantasy. His failure to understand the importance of testing led to many thousands of cases after the July 1 reopening of our economy and is now causing an unnecessary extension of our third wave. Day after day the positivity rates released by the Ministry of Health are evidence that the government is not testing enough to keep up with the spread of the virus.
The World Health Organization says an outbreak is under control when the positivity rate is under 5%. The current positivity rate in Cat Island is 58%.
Time and again, the Prime Minister fails to act until outbreaks are out of control, and then acts as if any criticism of the resulting lockdowns is playing politics. The inability to face and respond to science-based criticism represents extraordinary cowardice.
Cat Islanders know the difference between someone who really cares about their health and someone pretending to care at election time – after all, it is this Prime Minister who shut down their health clinics and mini-hospital.