(The statement below is the statement issued by the PLP’s Leader Philip Davis as a substitute for the monthly press conference. It caused quite a lot of consternation in the Minnis camp and he had a statement issued from his office attacking the Leader of the PLP Philip Davis with personal brickbats. The last refuge of a scoundrel is to attack a man personally when you cannot deal with his arguments—Editor)
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
12TH AUGUST 2020
The COVID-19 crisis is deepening and a comprehensive and sustainable plan that addresses economic recovery and the protection of public health is urgently needed.
THE ECONOMY AND PUBLIC HEALTH MUST BE PROTECTED
On Sunday The Prime Minister said that it was not unusual to return to a lockdown, that COVID-19 was not “leaving anytime soon” and that it was necessary for us to learn to live with it, yet his principal strategies are lock downs and curfews which are unsustainable.
The business community and members of his parliamentary caucus have publicly advised him of the need to save the economy while protecting the lives of Bahamians and residents.
The PLP has remained consistent in its positions that the government must save the economy while protecting public health and all measures must be evidence-based, supported by science.
THE ADVICE OF THE PLP
Our COVID-19 task force has released a number of strategies to combat COVID-19 and the party’s deputy leader, the opposition spokesperson on finance and the economy has released a COVID-19 economic plan.
These suggestions were largely ignored by the government.
FIVE MONTHS IN-HOW DID WE GET HERE?
So where are we now more than five months into this pandemic?
The government pivoted to the economic recovery phase with no Economic Recovery Plan. The Prime Minister revealed on Sunday that the Economic Recovery Plan was still being worked on.
The unfair applications of Emergency Orders and protocols led to a loss of public confidence in orders and the leadership of the Competent Authority. The orders appeared to us to be driven by political convenience and pressure rather than science.
These decisions have also hurt the domestic economy, especially in services, transportation and retail merchandizing. We repeatedly asked how was it that selected restaurants were approved to provide curbside services when others were denied this economic opportunity.
The government’s abandonment of the health asset expansion plan in support of National Health Insurance is a singular and significant reason for the health care capacity crisis we are now experiencing.
We are faced with unemployment at or around fifty percent.
Our national economy has all but stalled and is rapidly contracting.
The Bahamas is ranked at or near the bottom globally among countries in the category of rate of COVID-19 recovery.
The government’s reopening policy was full of holes and mistakes and even as cases in the US and especially Florida began to skyrocket, the Competent Authority failed to adjust the country’s COVID policies to reduce risks to Bahamians.
Specifically, the government’s ill-advised 72 hours international travel policy with no COVID-19 test requirement led to a surge in positive COVID-19 cases; this was confirmed by PAHO health experts. The surge also exposed the woeful shortcomings of our country’s health infrastructure.
LOCKDOWNS SHOULD BE A LAST RESORT
The government’s response to the COVID-19 surge was a second lock down.
A lockdown is a blunt instrument that causes widespread pain and suffering.
The lockdown is killing small businesses and hurting Bahamian families. A lockdown is a policy of last resort, when all else has failed.
This lockdown is only necessary because of multiple government failures. Many countries have been able to return to normal economic activity without locking down.
Government incompetence during this COVID-19 pandemic has made a bad situation worse.
Government incompetence is a threat and danger to the health, lives and livelihoods of our people.
PUT MONEY ON THE GROUND
On the economic front, the government should be supporting the local economy by keeping sufficient cash flow moving through the economy.
One way this could be achieved is by giving people money for food and basic living, rather than giving money to the Holoweskos to provide bad food. The R.I.S.E. program has the administrative infrastructure and capacity to easily execute this program.
Bahamian families would benefit by being able to meet their basic needs, businesses would benefit by being able to keep trading, thereby protecting jobs, the utility companies would benefit from people paying their bills, and government would benefit from VAT and other consumption taxes.
THE GOVERNMNENT MUST REVERSE COURSE
The Competent Authority should immediately be expanded to include experts in various sectors who can sensibly debate and plan the best course of action. This in fact is what was envisioned under the relevant provision of the constitution.
Additionally, we reiterate that the Prime Minister should be answering more questions, not hiding behind national addresses. In failing to answer the important questions on the minds of our people, he is undermining trust in his leadership, his office and the government.
The consequences may be dire.
The government must reverse course and use this time to upgrade hospitals and clinics, add testing capacity, and hire and train more contact tracers.
They should regularly test all frontline workers, including health care workers, the police, defense and immigration officers.
We say again that the government should protect the frontline workers and their families by introducing legislation to provide compensation to frontline workers who are infected while at work.
The government should take extra steps to prevent outbreaks where people are most vulnerable, as in nursing homes and long-term care facilities, and where families are living in crowded quarters.
A SPECIAL APPEAL FOR NURSES
I make a special appeal for nurses. I have heard that the Competent Authority and the Public Hospital Authority have now told nurses that because the number of volunteers available to work on COVID-19 duty are not sufficient, all nurses are being mandated whether they wish to or not to work COVID-19 duty. I am advised that the nurses are alarmed at this violation of their contract of employment. They indicate that the Government owes them substantial sums of money for work performed and the Government is unable to say when the payments will be made. They are also not satisfied with the adequacy of protective equipment and the testing regime. The Government must immediately settle these issues with the nurses.