COVID ACTION PLAN
Let’s contain COVID-19 to protect our families and begin our economic recovery.
Ladies and gentlemen of the press,
Esteemed members of the PLP COVID-19 Task Force:
Thank you all for coming today.
We are here this morning to share our Action Plan for containing COVID, so that we can protect our families and put our country on the path to economic recovery.
I want to begin by being very clear:
We cannot continue on this current course.
The number of new infections keeps growing.
We are losing loved ones.
Our nurses and doctors and hospital staff are exhausted.
And with every lockdown more of our local businesses go under.
Too many children are out of school and too many parents are out of work.
I have never seen so many Bahamians hurting so badly at the same time.
As bad as things are today, I am deeply concerned that if we do not change course, we will move from crisis to catastrophe.
The virus is a serious threat and we must – we must – take the necessary steps to get it under control.
We are now many months into this global health crisis. Some countries are succeeding, and some countries are failing. Right now, with 500-600 new cases on the dashboard every week, and the real numbers significantly higher, The Bahamas is failing. But there is no reason we can’t change that. I want to be very clear on this point. We can succeed. There is a way forward.
How do we stop the virus from spreading? Lockdowns should only be a last resort. Lockdowns keep everyone away from everyone, but what makes more sense is to isolate – and support – people who test positive, and let everyone else work and study and keep our economy moving.
We only have to keep everyone away from everyone when we don’t know where the virus is. And right now, we don’t know enough about where the virus is because we’re not testing enough.
One reason COVID is so tough to defeat is because it can be spread by people who do not have any symptoms (asymptomatic) – and by people before they develop symptoms (pre-symptomatic). In fact, the one or two days before people develop symptoms is when they’re thought to be most infectious.
So a testing programme that focuses on people with symptoms misses a lot of positive cases. And that’s what has happened here.
We need to make it easier for Bahamians to get tested. Workers on our frontlines should be tested regularly. Health care workers, police and immigration and defence force officers – all have been hit hard. If they were tested regularly, and positive cases isolated quickly, we could stop handfuls of cases from turning into hundreds.
And testing should be free to anyone concerned they may have been exposed to the virus. Let’s get real: at a time when record numbers of people are struggling to pay their bills, it is immoral and short-sighted to ask them to bear the cost of testing as well.
Bahamians want to do the right thing. Bahamians want to protect themselves and their families and their co-workers. Let’s make it easier to do so.
We need free testing, we need to expand testing centres across the country, and we need test results quickly.
PCR tests, which look for genetic material from the virus, remain the gold standard. Antigen tests instead look for the proteins that live on the virus’ surface. They aren’t as sensitive as PCR tests. But they’re a lot cheaper, and because they don’t have to be processed in a lab, a lot faster, providing results in less than 30 minutes. We shouldn’t just offer them to visitors to our country. We should offer them, for free, to
to Bahamians. Using both kinds of tests will help us catch more positive cases and give us more opportunities to stop transmission.
We also need an army of contact tracers. Many Bahamians who have tested positive have reached out to let me know they were never asked for their contacts. I know the contact tracers are working hard. Let’s give them reinforcements. A lot of Bahamians are out of work, and we have a very big and very urgent job that needs doing. Let’s hire and train more Bahamians to trace contacts and offer their fellow citizens support and information.
Let’s trace -- and then test -- all the close contacts of those who test positive, and let’s do it quickly, in time to make a difference, in time to break the chain of transmission.
Test, trace, isolate.
That’s how you stop the virus from spreading.
Listen, there are a lot of reasons to be hopeful. Across the world, scientists are working to learn more about the virus and how to treat it.
So let’s follow this roadmap, and:
Let’s make sure therapeutic treatments are available to Bahamians.
Let’s take better care of the doctors and nurses who are taking care of us.
Let’s give Bahamians the information they need to protect themselves and their families.
We’re in the middle of the most serious health crisis our nation has faced; where is the public education campaign? I want people to know how much safer it is outdoors than indoors. I want Bahamians to know that simply keeping doors and windows open can make a big difference in dispersing airborne virus particles. I want to help people understand the risks and the ways to reduce risk. I believe persuasion can be more effective than coercion.
Is what we’re proposing expensive? Yes. But let’s be clear about the cost of not stopping the spread of COVID.
If we don’t get the virus under control, how many Bahamians who are walking around healthy right now will be gone by the holidays? How many families will have an empty chair at their Christmas dinner? How many mothers and fathers and grandparents and friends will we be mourning and missing?
These really are the stakes. They couldn’t be higher.
The loss of life is most important. But what is the economic impact of failing to act? What happens if countries continue to warn their citizens to stay away from The Bahamas? And how many more small businesses, now hanging on by a thread, will we lose?
Let’s not let bad turn into worse. We can do so much better.
Today, we ask the government to put aside politics, and take these steps.
Bahamians understand this is hard. No one is asking for perfection. But we cannot tolerate paralysis, either.
We have to meet this threat as one country.
Let’s not waste another minute.