In The Bahamas, Things Are Not Getting Better, They’re Getting Worse

By Rogan Smith |
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Sign that reads, Not Today, #COVID-19. Photo by cottonbro from Pexels.

Two New Providence women, an Eleuthera man and an Abaco woman all died in one day from COVID-19. We have had 27 virus-related deaths since the start of the global pandemic, and 1,703 confirmed cases up to August 21st. Despite extreme measures to curtail this virus, things are getting worse.  

It’s now hard to believe, but just a few short months ago, The Bahamas was a shining example for countries being devastated by COVID-19. Our numbers were low because the prime minister rightly shut the country’s borders, instituted stay-at-home orders and had a phased plan to reopen the economy. We were making great progress. 

In fact, I often note that our government took proactive steps the mighty United States failed to take, and later came to regret. 

We’re now in August. The Bahamas has the highest number of confirmed infections it has had since the start of the global pandemic. We are seeing an explosion of cases; hospital bed capacity is stretched, our healthcare professionals are exhausted and getting sick and residents are ignoring orders. 

The four people who died from COVID-19 last week include a woman from New Providence, no age given, a 71-year-old woman from New Providence, a 54-year-old Abaco woman and a 45-year-old Eleuthera man. 

The government’s COVID-19 stats up to August 21st shows 221 recovered cases, 1,450 active cases, 27 deaths, 77 hospitalized cases and 8,778 tests completed.

There are now COVID-19 cases in islands that were previously exempted from the lockdown. 

Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis addresses the Bahamian media during a news conference.
Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis addresses the Bahamian media during a news conference.

Damned If You Do, Damned If You Don’t

The government is doing its best under the current circumstances. Yet, some people have unrealistic expectations.

I hear criticisms from the Opposition – official and unofficial – but none of them, if given the chance, would slip a toe in Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis’ shoe right now if he offered them. None of them.

Not only is the prime minister dealing with a virus that is confounding the world, but a tourism industry that has ground to a screeching halt, unemployed Bahamians who are growing increasingly frustrated, social assistance programs that are being stretched to the max and undisciplined and uncaring residents who are hell-bent on defying orders. 

The prime minister and the Ministry of Health are set to hold a news conference today at 5pm. I fully expect the nation to be placed on a full lockdown again, with no exceptions. It would be completely warranted. 

Our only hope right now is for a vaccine. But, vaccines take time. Beyond the research and pre-clinical studies, vaccines typically go through various phases before they are manufactured, approved and distributed. 

Stuart Thompson, a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer for the New York Times’ Opinion section, noted that “clinical trials almost never succeed.” 

In a piece where he spoke with several vaccine experts, Thompson noted that the record for developing an entirely new vaccine is at least four years, “more time than the public or the economy can tolerate.”

What’s even scarier, is that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves less than 10 percent of drugs that enter clinical trials. 

There’s another problem. Scientists say even if they do develop a vaccine, it may not work in obese people because they don’t typically respond well to vaccines. Obese people are among the group of people most in need of a vaccine.

We Are Our Own Worst Enemy

Image of Atlantis hotel on Paradise Island in The Bahamas.
Image of Atlantis hotel on Paradise Island in The Bahamas.

The Bahamas is heavily dependent on tourism. If we cannot arrest these numbers, we are not going back to work.

No tourist – particularly those coming from countries with low to non-existent COVID-19 numbers – wants to come into a hotspot. We are messing up our own money. 

We have to decide whether we want to party today or work tomorrow. Every taxi driver, hotel and restaurant worker should be condemning their friends who act recklessly. 

Our behavior makes me wonder what would have happened if we weren’t dealing with COIVD-19, but rather Ebola, which causes uncontrollable internal bleeding and could kill you in six to 16 days.

I believe the vast majority of people are social distancing and wearing their masks. But, the undisciplined bunch that I often reference in this column, are not interested in following rules. 

Perhaps the government should offer those individuals unwilling to social distance or wear masks a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to move to another uninhabited island. That way they can party all they want with no restrictions. The catch, however, is that they would be on their own completely. 

Just recently, some residents foolishly took part in some wild parties even after the government forbid such gatherings.

In the videos, widely disseminated on WhatsApp, men were seen jumping off of roofs into pools. Most importantly, the people caught on camera were not social distancing or wearing face masks. 

The government should fine the homeowners or Airbnb owners for allowing such parties to take place on their premises. 

Airbnb announced recently that it had instituted a global ban on parties and events “in the best interest of public health.” 

“Some have chosen to take bar and club behavior to homes, sometimes rented through our platform,” the company said in a statement. “We think such conduct is incredibly irresponsible. We do not want that type of business and anyone engaged in or allowing that behavior does not belong on our platform.”

Now, if those Airbnb owners in The Bahamas – all 4,094 of them – want to stupidly jeopardize their status on the platform, then let them. 

The Mental Effect 

The COVID-19 numbers dominate the news so much that few people discuss the effect this virus is having on people’s mental state. 

Bahamians are at their wit’s end with the repeated lockdowns. While they understand the need to initiate the lockdowns, they are frustrated that they cannot resume life as they knew it. 

The virus is creating paranoia amongst residents. Many people have been locked in their homes for months. Family members, fearful of catching the disease, are not interacting with other relatives and friends the way they used to.

Residents who are unemployed and were already living paycheck to paycheck are fearful about their future. It’s taking a serious toll on their mental health. People are literally in survival mode every day.

While there are social services there to assist, they can only help for so long. At some point, they will run out.

The sooner we can get rid of COVID-19, the sooner we can get back to normal. And by normal, I mean back to work. 

You can watch the prime minister’s news conference on Facebook @mohbahamas and @opmbs live at 5pm.

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