THE NASSAU GUARDIAN: While Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis hinted at reimplementing more stringent restrictions – like lockdowns – to slow the spread of COVID-19, the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers’ Confederation (BCCEC) yesterday maintained that all avenues for successfully managing the COVID-19 outbreak have not been explored.
During a national address on Sunday, the prime minister said he would brief the nation on the recommendations from health experts, on the way forward for New Providence and Abaco, which are experiencing the highest spike in cases.
Minnis met with representatives from the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO), World Health Organization (WHO) and Chamber of Commerce to discuss specific strategies and the way forward. Cases of COVID-19 on New Providence, as well as Abaco, continue to surge.
While noting the staggering increase in COVID-19 numbers and deaths, particularly on New Providence, BCCEC Chairperson Khrystle Rutherford-Ferguson said health concerns, along with the economic concerns, must be balanced.
She said during the meeting with the prime minister, health professionals revealed recent COVID-19 data.
“It is our position that all avenues for successfully managing the COVID-19 outbreak have not been explored,” Rutherford-Ferguson said.
“Businesses and the public require on-going strategies to adapt to coexisting with COVID-19. It is crucial, now more than ever, for all efforts to be made to protect the viability of our economy and livelihoods, through managing the continued operation of businesses while protecting lives. The implementation and enforcement of targeted strategies, supported by empirical data will lend in these efforts.”
The BCCEC and much of the business community have spoken out against complete lockdowns in the capital since the prime minister announced, and soon after, rescinded, a two-week lockdown in August.
The Chamber suggested in August that greater emphasis be placed on enforcing adherence to COVID-19 protocols, even going so far as to penalize businesses that do not follow the rules.
Rutherford-Ferguson said yesterday that the Chamber’s position remains the same.
“Coexisting with COVID-19 requires a behavioral change, one which can only be achieved by the enforcement of wearing a mask properly, washing hands frequently and social distancing; as well as, a personal choice to reduce non-essential movements,” she said.
“The private sector has a vested interest in enforcing protocols at its various establishments, and have demonstrated as much by the cost incurred to retrofit premises in order to be COVID-19 compliant.
“We believe that greater emphasis must be placed on enforcing the adherence to COVID-19 protocols, testing and contact tracing, discouraging large social gatherings and on-going education on the safety protocols and the long term impacts of contracting COVID-19. We also believe that all avenues should be used, by both traditional and non-traditional methods, as an educational platform to reach the population reported as having an exponential increase in cases, being those in the 20-40 age range.”
Rutherford-Ferguson said controlling the spread of the coronavirus requires a responsible community effort, toward which the private sector remains committed.