PLP COVID-19 Task Force, Co-Chairs Dr. Michael Darville and Dr. Melissa Evans
The PLP’s Covid-19 Task Force is deeply alarmed by the negligence and indifference displayed by the Minister of Health over reports that more than 20,000 travellers to The Bahamas have failed to comply with the five-day travel testing protocols that are supposed to protect Bahamians.
While he admits that nearly half of the travellers who were required to take the test failed to do so, he still claims that “the health protocols are working”. This makes no sense. And it cannot be said that those who have not tested as required are simply disobeying the regulations. There have been many accounts in social media from a number of travellers, Bahamians and foreigners, detailing their frustration in trying to take the tests, but finding that the testing centers are closed or empty. By any definition this is a huge failure on the part of the government. Rather than defend it, the responsible thing to do would be to admit the incompetence underway and fix it.
The proof in the pudding which he claims to be looking for, is staring him in the face: his health officials admitted last week that since November 1st, 113 travellers have tested positive for COVID-19 after five days in the country with the antigen test.
How bad does it have to get before he takes action? Have the members of this government become so detached from reality that they embrace obvious failure as a mark of success?
Just last week, when confronted with the worst exam results ever in the school system, the Minister of Education proclaimed “results aren’t all that matter”.
And then last night, with the prospect of a new, more contagious strain of the Covid-19 virus entering the country, the Prime Minister proclaimed that the government had found ‘the formula’ for success in dealing with the pandemic.
The Minister of Health has had enough time in his unfamiliar portfolio, to have learned the basics of the science behind the global recommendations of the WHO, PAHO and the CDC.
Testing is essential to determine who has the virus. Tracing and Tracking is then necessary in order to isolate them from the wider public. It is one of the distinguishing features of this virus that while some people may remain symptom-free, they are still able to infect others who may be far more vulnerable. Just because the ICU beds are not currently full, it does not mean that community-spread is not taking place.
As we have said repeatedly, the only solution to this crisis to effectively prepare and plan how to deal with it. The reason that compulsory testing protocols are in place is to protect the people. If they are being breached, everyone in the country is put at risk.
This is why just yesterday, the United States, our nearest neighbor and our largest market, announced mandatory testing for everyone arriving into the country. While this presents an economic challenge to us, which the government must urgently address, the science is clear: test, test, test!
This failure in the testing protocols is yet another indictment on the Government’s incompetent handling of this pandemic.
If the Minister sees nothing wrong in this breach, then he is not the right man for the job.
Getting this wrong is risking the lives and health of everyone in The Bahamas.