Press Conference read-out | 28 July 2021

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Hon. Philip Davis, Q.C., M.P.
Prime Minister
Commonwealth of The Bahamas

Good morning.

Thank you for joining me.

It has been clear for some time that our health crisis is turning into a health catastrophe. 

We have seen more than 1600 new COVID cases recorded this month alone. Our public health system is strained beyond capacity – described by one doctor as “beyond breaking point”.[1]

Over the last week our country’s case count per 100,000 in population has been one of the highest in the world.[2] We are a nation in serious peril.

There is a path forward out of this emergency.

First, we have to come together, as one nation. This is not a time to divide people by vaccination status or political party. We are one country, and we need to face this health and economic crisis together.

Second, we have to give Bahamians the information they need to make the best decisions for themselves and for their families.  There is a lot of unreliable information on social media. The way to counter that is to give people good information – and to make medical professionals available to answer questions and address concerns.

Beyond vaccines, there are ways to reduce the risk of contracting COVID, and we need to share, in detail, these risk mitigation strategies with Bahamians. For example, this is largely an airborne virus, and most transmission happens indoors. We’d like to see a public-private initiative to provide guidance and support for improving ventilation and air quality in workplaces, churches, homes and schools.

Third, our local medical professionals are a tremendous resource, and they must be engaged in meaningful consultation. We need to expand our capacity to treat moderately and seriously ill COVID patients – but that doesn’t just mean more beds and more technical equipment – that means trained staff. In order to retain our medical professionals and hire new ones, we need to listen to them, pay them fairly, and provide safe and reasonable working conditions.

In April of this year, Bahamian nurses and physicians warned against lifting the testing requirement for vaccinated passengers. Scientists believe that people who are vaccinated and have breakthrough infections from the delta variant may carry as much viral load as those who are unvaccinated. The vaccines do an excellent job preventing severe infection and hospitalization or death, but a vaccinated person with a mild or asymptomatic infection may be able to spread delta to others.

Throughout the summer, tourism has rebounded throughout our Caribbean region, including in the many countries who kept in place their testing requirement for all visitors. We can keep welcoming visitors and at the same time do a better job keeping these extremely transmissible variants out of our country.

Fourth, on vaccines, we recommend partnering with the private sector to bring in additional doses, including of the Pfizer vaccine. The private sector attempted to do this in January and February of this year but was turned away by the government. I believe many Bahamians would welcome an effort to go beyond waiting for COVAX and other donations, especially as they see case numbers rising steeply and the strain on the public health system.

Fifth, we need a dramatic expansion of testing and contact tracing. Positivity rates consistently over 20% are evidence we are not testing enough. When Family Islands with relatively small populations like Cat Island and Andros have cases, let’s test our way out of the outbreak, instead of locking everyone down. That has proven too damaging to our families and businesses.

Sixth, it would be very helpful if the Ministry of Health would share more information with Bahamians about the sites and sources of transmission; knowing where and how the virus is spreading in our country would help Bahamians make more informed decisions as they seek to keep themselves safe. 

Seventh, the Delta is more than twice as transmissible as the original COVID virus; high-quality masks are needed, especially for those who interact with large numbers of people in the course of their employment and for those whose underlying medical conditions make them susceptible. We would like to see the government provide medical-grade masks to frontline workers, including health care professionals and immigration, police, and defence force officers, as well as making a supply available to the public.

Eighth, COVID fatigue is real. We believe it would be helpful if the science and health rationale behind each of the Emergency Orders were shared with the public.  This is both appropriately respectful and likely to increase compliance.

Finally, we must break this cycle of neglecting public health and then being forced to implement severe restrictions. We need to plan and prepare. Our economy is still very much in crisis; we cannot afford to go backwards.

This is an all-hands-on-deck time. In a pandemic, no man or woman can go it alone. The decisions each of us make will have an impact on the people around us. We’re all in this together.  I know my fellow Bahamians will come together, take care of each other, and share both blessings and burdens.

May God Bless The Bahamas.

[1] Dr. Sabriquet Pinder-Butler, president of Consultant Physicians Staff Association.

[2] Coronavirus World Map: Tracking the Global Outbreak – The New York Times, 28 July 2021.