Competent Authority’s Failure to Plan Worsens Crisis
Hon. Philip Davis, Q.C., M.P.
Commonwealth of The Bahamas
New COVID cases have been rising quickly this summer, with more than 1800 new cases in July alone. Despite increasingly anguished pleas from our hospitals and medical professionals, the government has been slow to respond to the crisis.
The Minnis government never seems to have a plan; instead of thoughtful and comprehensive preparation, they prefer to react and improvise. This is why we are facing a public health crisis without enough hospital beds, or nurses, or doctors, or vaccines, or public education. This is why last Friday, the Health Minister, apparently now speaking for the Competent Authority, announced a new series of restrictions, many of which are hard to reconcile with science and don’t pass a common-sense test.
Then last night, the Prime Minister focused his National Address on urging Bahamians to get vaccinated. The main problem? It’s impossible to get vaccinated without vaccines.
The Bahamas is behind nearly every regional neighbor in the Caribbean in vaccinations. The Cayman Islands, Barbados, Bermuda, Turks and Caicos, Anguilla, the British Virgin Islands, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Antigua and Barbuda, Saint Lucia, Trinidad and Tobago – all of these countries and many more have vaccinated a larger share of their populations.
Although the Prime Minister has clearly struggled to bring in vaccines, he has yet to explain why he rejected a credible effort by the private sector to bring Pfizer vaccines to The Bahamas in January and February. Tens of thousands of Bahamians could have been inoculated by now, safer from the highly transmissible Delta variant.
We hope that long-promised additional doses do arrive soon. The government should better prepare for that moment with a public education initiative. The Prime Minister seems to believe that telling people not to be afraid of needles is sufficient public education, an approach that is arrogant and condescending. A much better approach would be to make trusted medical professionals available to answer questions in a series of public education events. Bahamians deserve to have their questions and concerns responded to respectfully by experts.
The Prime Minister said nothing last night about expanding COVID testing or making the cost free or accessible to Bahamians; testing remains a critical tool in fighting COVID and one that is underutilized here.
We are grateful that the Prime Minister is no longer promising to crowd thousands of unvaccinated Bahamians on a boat to Florida, a current hotbed of rising Delta transmission. This was a reckless, crazy, dangerous idea – a way to spread the virus, not contain it — and we’re all indebted to the responsible medical professionals who were able to talk him out of it.
We remain deeply concerned that the government is not doing enough to support Bahamians through this crisis, and continue to recommend the following:
- A public education campaign with medical professionals.
- A risk mitigation initiative, to make workplaces, churches, homes and schools safer.
- Meaningful consultation and cooperation with local medical professionals, who have been ignored.
- Urgent re-evaluation of the policy permitting entry to vaccinated travelers without a negative COVID test.
- Partnership with the private sector to bring in vaccines, including additional Pfizer doses.
- A dramatic expansion of both testing and contact tracing.
- Support for COVID-positive Bahamians who need to isolate.
- An explanation of the science behind each of the Emergency Orders.
- More information from the Ministry of Health regarding the sites and sources of transmission, so Bahamians can be more informed about where and how to protect themselves.
- Making high-quality medical-grade masks available to Bahamians.
No matter the metric – cases or deaths or vaccines per 100,000 in population – The Bahamas is being out-performed by most nations in our region. Improving our country’s response to the health crisis is literally a matter of life and death.
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