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Bahamas showing how to ride and whistle

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

There is a popular sentiment in the street that until the coronavirus disappears we reopen the Jamaican economy to our detriment; and that is driving up the fear level.

Cynical politicians, with an eye on elections, know better, but don't want to risk reopening our borders, fearing that the ordinary man in the street understands little or nothing about the economy and will punish the party.

But leaders must lead. We can do both keep on top of the virus and reopen the economy at the same time. We really don't have a choice. If the economy is not reopened soon, that same man in the street, facing hunger and unable to pay any bills, will turn on the Government.

We note that The Bahamas, which has two more deaths from COVID-19 than Jamaica, has taken an approach and an attitude which we could all learn from as we face the tough decisions that must be made and made now.

The sister Caribbean nation is looking at a July 1, 2020 reopening, while making it clear it would not hesitate to quickly reverse that decision if the situation required it.

If we move quickly in Jamaica we could open on June 1.

The Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC), in a dispatch yesterday, quoted Prime Minister Hubert Minnis as saying that his Administration was well advanced in its planning for the beginning of the reopening of the tourism sector and to allow for travel in and out of The Bahamas. He said the resorts, airports and seaports were finalising the health and safety protocols that would be necessary for a reopening. The guidelines would take into account what was being done within the region and around the world.

Those extensive guidelines would be designed to provide for reasonable assurance that travel and leisure were generally safe, and any such reopening to commercial scale traffic would also be dependent on the ongoing stabilisation of the COVID-19 outbreak in The Bahamas.

Dr Minnis echoed similar sentiments as we have in this space when he said: “I fully understand the anxiety and frustration of many Bahamians and residents to reopen our economy. But we must act with prudence and good judgement. We have to balance the health, economic, and social needs of citizens and residents.”

Importantly, he noted that the country was already in “Phase 1B of the national reopening plan”, but had started to introduce components of Phase 2 as the country fully transitioned into the second phase of the plan. As of yesterday, several islands were set to resume commercial activity.

Individuals may start applying from tomorrow and once cleared for travel, each traveller must present the COVID-19 Travel 22 Authorisation Card to the relevant ticket agent. Repatriation of Bahamians from overseas will resume this week.

Two repatriation exercises are scheduled from Fort Lauderdale in the United States into New Providence. Passengers will be required to present a COVID-19 negative test result to a Bahamasair agent before being allowed to board the aircraft.

It should be noted that The Bahamas is doing all this while recovering from the devastation caused by Hurricane Dorian last September, and currently preparing for the upcoming hurricane season that begins on June 1.

Here is a country that means business.