FOR a national address, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis did not have a great deal to say last night.
There was, for example, no word on any change in COVID-19 restrictions. There was no definitive plan laid out for how vaccinations will be rolled out – rather just an announcement that Dr Merceline Dahl-Regis will lead a committee to advise on such a plan.
This stands in contrast to comments from the Health Minister, Renward Wells, previously, who said in early December that the ministry had already drafted a “fully functional, laid out vaccination plan” which had been developed over the previous two months.
Quite what the new committee means to that plan we’re not sure.
Mr Wells was also in the news again yesterday, in response to concerns that 46 percent of travellers had not taken the rapid antigen test on the fifth day of their visit as required. He said that the number of cases we have in the country show that “the health protocols that we have in place are working to the extent that we would like to see them work”.
So he’d like to see around half of all travellers fail to follow the rules then?
Come on, Mr Wells, either these tests are necessary or they aren’t – don’t try and pull the wool over our eyes. If they’re not of any use, scrap them. If they are of use, enforce them. And in the meantime, explain why they haven’t been carried out in the first place.
As Mr Wells was dancing this dance, Dr Minnis was defending his government’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis, pointing to the reduction in cases and detailing how much money the government had spent in response to COVID-19.
Dr Minnis was upbeat, saying that “the end is in sight” while also cautioning against the prospect of a third wave of the virus before the vaccines arrive.
In short, for most of us, nothing changed as a result of this speech. It was a chance for Dr Minnis to make his case about what the government has done so far – without detailing what the government will do next other than buying more tablet devices for high school students, a sign that remote learning isn’t going away in a hurry.
The curfews remain. The other emergency powers measures remain. Dr Minnis said that the “restrictions will end” but declined to specify when.
So it’s as you were for now, after a national address that didn’t address much of anything at all.
US test requirement
In a change that will affect a significant number of Bahamians, the US is to introduce a requirement that all air passengers arriving there will have to have a negative COVID-19 test.
This of course mirrors the requirement we have here – although Tourism Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar offered some reassurance that an antigen test will be sufficient rather than a PCR test.
There’s a big difference between the two – the chief one for travellers being cost. A PCR test costs a lot more than the antigen test, although it is regarded as far more accurate.
For visitors going either way, that requirement could add substantially to the journey’s cost, so the ability to use an antigen test reduces that a huge amount – otherwise it could bring travel grinding to a halt again.
Indeed, some tourist markets are ahead of the game – with guests at Baha Mar being given free COVID-19 tests already as part of the cost of their stay.
That kind of thinking by tourist destinations is to be encouraged, rather than seeing travellers put off by all the extra costs to their bill.
As it happens, looking back to that day five rapid antigen requirement, that will suffice for re-entry to the United States for visitors from there.
All the more reason to make sure that everyone is taking it.