Chester Cooper, Deputy Leader, Progressive Liberal Party
Member of Parliament, Exuma & Ragged Island
August 24, 2020
Our party leadership listened intently to the joint press conference held by the prime minister and the Ministry of Health today.
Whilst Dr. Marceline Dahl-Regis and her team brought some clarity to information on the spread of this disease and our efforts to combat it through testing and contact tracing that has been lacking during this second wave, many more questions remain.
We have also concluded that the prime minister has no real strategic plan to stop the spread of COVID-19 or to successfully reopen our economy.
We are clearly a nation in crisis.
COVID-19 deaths including our healthcare workers are, unfortunately, increasing, as are hospitalizations and infections on New Providence, yet the prime minister now says there is no need for a tight lockdown that he indicated was unavoidable one week ago.
What an about face.
Nothing we heard today inspires confidence.
One has to wonder whether there was a thorough analysis of the data before his cruel announcement of an immediate lockdown.
The prime minister’s announcement today of the rapid relaxing of restrictions appears politically motivated, rather than scientifically driven.
He must do a better job at justifying his decisions.
The pandemic is not the fault of this government.
But the mismanagement of our nation’s response, the erosion of public trust, and the chaos and suffering that have followed as a consequence are surely their responsibility.
In a global index measuring the recovery of the world’s nations from COVID-19, The Bahamas continues to rank last, 184th out of 184 nations.
We are happy for the businesses that can now open but too many Bahamians are still suffering with no food, no jobs and no housing.
The leader of our party, the Hon. Philip Brave Davis, has repeatedly called for an expansion of the Competent Authority, an expansion of testing and tracing, real transparency, more support for doctors and nurses, and steady policies based on science, not impulse.
The party remains profoundly concerned about the ability of the government to halt the outbreaks of the virus across our islands.
The Progressive Liberal Party has the following message for the prime minister.
If the government has a plan to exit from this crisis, they need to share it.
A comprehensive plan to manage this crisis is long past due.
To simply say we will soon hear what it is, is simply not good enough, almost six months into the crisis.
This day-by-day improvisation by the government is not working. People can see for themselves that the government is just winging it.
The panic caused by the sudden imposition of a full lockdown last week resulted in chaos the following day, and then long lines and crowding after the reversal of that policy.
At a time when their own regulations restrict the size of gatherings, their other policies result in crowds.
Individuals and small businesses need to be able to look ahead and plan.
Saying business can offer certain services by Monday, but telling them that may change this week, does not provide certainty.
It does not inspire confidence for the business community.
Everyone understands the need to be flexible.
But it is the government’s job to reduce uncertainties, not make them worse.
The prime minister needs to expand the Competent Authority to include experts and specialists, who can review the scientific studies, learn from success stories of other nations, put best practices into place, and get the virus under control.
The government needs to begin offering more practical guidance to Bahamians.
As science’s understanding of the virus grows, the government needs to continually update guidance for the country.
We know inside is more dangerous than outside, but this is rarely emphasized to the public.
Put your mask on anytime you’re inside any building, including your own home, with someone who is not part of your household.
Ventilation helps – open your windows and make sure air is circulating. This kind of practical advice is very important.
The government must make regaining trust a top priority.
The government needs to be more truthful and more transparent about the nature and scale of the outbreak.
The government must better explain the sudden increase in the death toll.
The government must also advise what percentage of positive cases are being tested.
In addition, the prime minister must continue answer questions himself as he did today.
The prime minister must also stop using the experiences of other nations as an excuse.
That doesn’t make sense when our country is ranked 184th on a global index for COVID recovery.
Many nations are not in lockdown, and life has returned to somewhat like normal there, with any new cases treated with the urgency and resources necessary to stop any spread.
This is what the Bahamian people deserve as well.
The government needs to offer more support to Bahamians.
Some Bahamians have been out of work since this crisis began. Many homes no longer have any money coming in.
This is a national emergency.
The suffering of families is deepening.
The current government programs are too haphazard, too unreliable, and too limited in scope. We reiterate our call for what a post-emergency order environment looks like.
We have heard very little on what will be the plan for the new normal. We have put forward our plans.
We invite the government to familiarize themselves with them.
The opposition stands ready to assist.