The following Op-Ed was released by One Bermuda Alliance MP & Former Premier, Michael Dunkley…
As we head towards the Good Friday and Easter Holiday, a big holiday for all of us, one with so much tradition and meaning, we reflect on the current spike and alarming uptick on positive COVID cases.
It has now been over a year since the pandemic altered our lives so drastically. Our health is challenged, jobs have been lost, many families struggle and our economy— poor before COVID— is on life support. We have learned lot about the virus and know what we each must do to protect ourselves. Yet, we find ourselves once again in the middle of a spike with new restrictions imposed and must ask, “Are we in a better position now than in March 2020?”
Last Saturday the Government announced further restrictions which amongst them mandated retail and grocery stores open with 20 percent occupancy, schools and camps closed, working from home mandatory where possible, churches closed to congregants, no indoor dining at restaurants, gyms and all indoor recreational spaces closed.
Government has often stated how well we have done through COVID but now with this spike our positive cases per capita has now risen above the world average. Premier Burt has been quoted as saying there are more positive cases because we are testing more and casting a wide net (I seem to recall a former President to our west stating the same thing much to the chagrin of many) but the fact is we have more positive cases because now we have community spread and much of the good work of rule-abiding citizens has been damaged. Despite the commendable efforts to distribute vaccines and encourage social distancing, we now must start to rebuild again.
In addition, it appears this current spike has caught the government off guard with an alarming rise in positive cases coupled with frequent changes in restrictions as the numbers rise.
While we must do all we can to beat COVID, and there is a delicate balance with every decision during a massive spike in positive cases, the current restrictions are another blow to many employees, businesses and the economy.
Businesses that have followed COVID restrictions and requirements, and have seemingly not contributed to the community transmission, have been once again dealt a major blow to their operations. Many questions are asked…Why were little or no details on an unemployment benefit for those now impacted shared at the time the restrictions were announced? Why have those that have breached regulations not been held accountable for putting our community at risk? Why, since retail and grocery are allowed to open at 20 percent of capacity, can’t those not allowed to conduct indoor business also have safe suitable indoor capacity?
So I ask, once again, are we better off now than we were a year ago? Are local businesses, schools, and households any better off than they were when this terrible virus first struck our Island?
Unfortunately, it seems this government has adopted the practice of evading difficult topics and avoiding direct responses to simple questions. For instance, the Department of Corrections has thus far failed to provide any clarity on the extent to which COVID has impacted inmates. Let’s all hope government changes course soon, as transparency and accountability are essential to getting this virus under control.
Moving forward, I hope government will provide more detail on the specific hot spots that contributed to this current massive spike and the tightened restrictions, how long they envision them lasting and information on how those out of work through no fault of their own can be supported through this crisis.
Put simply, the people have a right to know.
Hon Michael H Dunkley JP, MP.