HON. PHILIP “BRAVE” DAVIS, Q.C. ,M.P.
PRESS CONFERENCE STATEMENT
RE RESPONSE TO COVID-19 EMERGENCY
Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen of the Press.
First of all, thank you for being here. We are all grateful for the work you are doing and will do in the coming weeks to keep Bahamians informed and ready. You will do this important work even as you are worried about your parents, your children, and your ability to do your work safely amidst this crisis. This is no small service to our nation. On behalf of my family and the Progressive Liberal Party, allow me to express our profound gratitude.
My fellow Bahamians, we’re all in this together. This is not “every man for himself”. We cannot ask only how to keep ourselves and our families safe. We are called to harness our compassion and service to protect our neighbours and our communities, with a special obligation to lift up the most vulnerable among us.
Every organization, every church, every club, everyone in The Bahamas must ask the same question: what can we do to help?
Over the weekend, I announced the establishment of the PLP Covid-19 Taskforce.
The task force’s mandate is to harness the expertise that exists within our party for the benefit of the government and the Bahamian people. The task force is already hard at work, and we are pleased to be able to respond so quickly to the Prime Minister’s invitation to bring our ideas, suggestions and resources to the effort to combat the outbreak of Covid-19 in our country.
The Co-Chairs of our Task Force are Senator Dr. Michael Darville, and Dr Melissa Evans. We are pleased that Dr. Evans can be with us this morning. She will address you shortly.
We fully appreciate the challenges and strains that this will place on those in the frontline, including our health care workers and emergency responders. We also appreciate that, as a small country, our resources can easily be stretched. Today we offer the following suggested focus for national priorities:
We believe that the government must provide clear and candid updates to Bahamians on a daily basis, with an opportunity for the media to ask top officials questions. Having reliable information that people can trust is critical to combating rumours, fake news and speculation. As this emergency progresses, advice from experts will evolve as well, and Bahamians must have a place to turn for accurate and science-based news and recommendations. There must be specific response guidelines for workplaces, schools and public spaces, and they must be tailored for each island.
This is first and foremost a health crisis. The experience of other nations tells us that we must move quickly to transform how our hospitals and clinics operate in order to safely and efficiently accommodate a surge in patients. We must have a plan for access to ventilators and ICU beds, with special consideration for those in the Family Islands who currently have few or none where they live.
We must make the health and safety of the doctors and nurses and technicians on the front lines a priority, as they will do the work of healing. Dr. Evans will address these priorities in more detail in a moment.
The impact of the virus on our tourist industry has already started to cascade through the economy. People are being laid off, or being required to take unpaid leave. Small businesses especially are likely to come under severe cash-flow pressure. With household savings already low or non-existent for many Bahamians, individuals are almost immediately likely to face strains in their personal finances.
Several issues will need to be urgently considered:
- The National Insurance Board must provide temporary unemployment assistance.
- Assistance to small and medium size enterprises (SME) and hotels that will be immediately affected and may be forced to reduce working hours and in some cases lay of staff.
- The Central Bank must strongly consider easing credit and lowering the cost of capital.
- Arrangements must be made with financial institutions to temporarily halt foreclosures and demonstrate forbearance with customers regarding loan payments.
- Measures must be taken to ensure that consumers aren’t being taken advantage of by ‘price-gouging’.
- The Water & Sewerage Corporation was correct to halt disconnections. It would also be correct and effective to also consider the reconnection of those whose supply have been disconnected as water is an essential component to adequate hygiene.
- It is also our view that it would be correct and effective if BPL would proactively support this national containment effort by similarly following the policy of the Water & Sewerage Corporation.
- We will need regular updates from the business community, particularly in industries like shipping, communications and energy.
- We support the government’s order for the immediate closure of schools. Research has shown that closing schools can be critical to slowing the spread of a virus. At the same time, such an action causes an immediate impact on families and the economy. We must provide support to parents who cannot work because they now must supervise small children, and we should take extra steps to protect children who will be left unsupervised.
- Also, as a matter of urgency, the school closure means that those students who rely on the school lunch program may be find themselves in an extremely difficult situation. We must ensure that children who rely on these programs are being fed, and the school lunch vendors who rely on income for their services must be supported as well.
My Fellow Bahamians:
A time of crisis can bring out the best in us. The only path forward is more compassion, more love, more determination.
We take the next steps together not just as a country, but as a family.
There is no “us vs. them” – there is only us.
Those among us who become infected deserve dignity and compassion along with the best medical care.
We may not be able to hug and comfort each other in the ways that we are used to, but we can still show our care and concern.
In the cherished words of that jet-ski operator who rescued so many during Hurricane Dorian, we do because “We’s Bahamian!”
I have hardly meant it more than now, when I pray to God to bless us, bless the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, and bless the whole world.
I would now like to invite the Co-Chair of the PLP Covid-19 Task Force to speak. I will ask her to introduce herself, as she brings world-class experience and expertise to this moment.