The PLP Repeats Call for Free Testing

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

More than a year into our battle with COVID, the government’s continued failure to have sufficient resources in place to battle the virus is indefensible, especially given what is at stake.

The PLP’s COVID Task Force has repeatedly shared advice and recommendations for the fight against COVID.
In June of last year, ahead of the country’s re-opening, we warned that the government needed to dramatically increase testing, tracing and isolation capacity in order to stop a few cases from turning into thousands, but these recommendations were not heeded, and the second wave brought illness and death and resulted in economy-killing lockdowns.

In October of last year, we released a 10-point Action Plan, with free testing at its center, recognizing again that widespread testing is both the ethical thing to do, (why should knowing your COVID status be reserved only for those who can afford an expensive test?) and a smart investment in public health. Other nations in our region have offered their citizens free testing, but you will recall that the Prime Minister laughed at the proposal for free testing, calling it “Alice in Wonderland”.

In January 2021, we added ten new recommendations, warning of the danger posed by new variants and advising that “wait and see” was not a plan.

And at the end of February 2021, we released recommendations for avoiding a third wave of cases, including a repeat of our call for free testing. We called on the government to be proactive, instead of reactive, and to take steps to prevent new outbreaks. Unfortunately, these recommendations were not followed, either.

The FNM government has repeatedly ignored science-based common-sense recommendations from our Task Force, putting petty politics ahead of public health.

But hope springs eternal – and we continue to urge this government to recognize that there are tools in the public health toolbox that they continue to ignore.

The most important of these is FREE TESTING. Thousands of Bahamians have been exposed to a person infected with COVID in the last several weeks, and a great many of them are unable to afford a PCR test. As soon as Bahamians learn they were in contact with someone who has subsequently tested positive, they should be able to learn quickly if they are infected, regardless of their resources or symptoms. Instead, Bahamians calling public clinics are told to quarantine for 14 days, which for many Bahamians is entirely unrealistic, given crowded living situations and difficult economic circumstances. The government should be knocking down obstacles to access – widespread testing is crucial to fighting this new wave of cases. Public health officials have suggested that the rising case counts released by the Ministry of Health, as alarming as they are, are an undercount; the real situation is even worse.

Many Bahamians are wondering how a Prime Minister who could find $20 million for sidewalks finds it impossible to support free COVID testing for Bahamians who have been exposed to the virus. Indeed, many Bahamians are wondering which members of the Prime Minister’s family and inner circle are benefiting from the fact that public clinics are not offering free COVID testing to Bahamians. Who is profiting, or even profiteering, in this situation?
The government’s vaccination programme is running behind other nations in the Caribbean (see attached). We have been informed that the government received proposals from reputable companies who were prepared to bring in sufficient supplies of Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca by early February to vaccinate our entire population. Indeed, these companies have supplied some of our Caribbean neighbors. Had the government secured these vaccines, we would now be in much better shape in terms of both the public health picture and our economic recovery.
It’s never too late to start doing the right thing. We hope the government will act in the best interests of the Bahamian people.