Regrets, there have been a few ...
The Bermuda Government has been given the benefit of the doubt throughout the coronavirus crisis. These indeed are unprecedented times and David Burt, his Cabinet and the health professionals charged with providing the best advice to our leaders have been deserving of understanding and no small amount of praise.
But for a few hours last night, they dropped the ball.
By failing to reveal essential information relating to the announcement of the first two positive tests for Covid-19 on island, the potential for a few hours of setting the community off on a panicked frenzy was real.
Until the Premier returned at a much delayed press conference at Cabinet almost three hours later to walk it back and mouth the words we all wanted and needed to hear:
“American Airlines flight 308 on March 4 and British Airways flight 2233 on March 6.”
Again, these are unprecedented times and any prolonged uncertainty might have been damaging beyond control for the Government and our health authorities.
People deserve the right to know they might have been in contact with someone, anyone, who had been on either of those flights and that information needed to be released immediately because of all the implications it has for families and the workplace.
But it would be unfair to judge too harshly, as the entire world has entered uncharted territory and governments around the globe are struggling to cope with a grim new reality.
It should, however, be remembered in the corridors of power that the best weapon against fear and panic is full and frank disclosure of as much information as possible, as fast as possible.
It is to be hoped that the infected do not become gravely ill and make a speedy recovery, but if we are to arrest the spread of Covid-19 so that it does not make significant impact on our island community, we have to treat this disease with the requisite seriousness.
Not the blasé approach that could be found on our streets in recent days, with the all-encompassing “bro” handshake still prevalent and otherwise general indifference, or the interminably long time it took the most populous of our sporting organisations to belatedly heed the call against hosting congregations of 50 or more people.
What we know for certain is that before they became symptomatic, the disease carriers moved freely among us for 72 hours — but, more significantly, so, too, did the other passengers from AA flight 308 and BA flight 2233.
In the interest of safety of the entire community, they should have been self-isolating five days ago and now, so, too, anyone who has been within their sphere.
Which exposes the reckless among those who have been slow to heed government advice in advance of these inevitable first positive tests, and even the not so reckless.
It is not as though we were not warned: “It is likely just a matter of time.”
Those were the words of health minister Kim Wilson. Twenty days ago!
But it is only now that the airport goes into lockdown.
It is only now that the government schools close.
It is only now that the seaports are closed to cruise ships and other non-essential vessels.
It is only now that the buses will stop running.
It is only now that the Bermuda Football Association, which hosts the island’s most populous sport, has suspended all playing activity.
You could argue that the horse has already bolted.
And now we pray that the virus, once landed, has not multiplied exponentially and that we have the capacity and will to rein it in.
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Ada Nyabongo (1926-2020)
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