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Government must serve greater good

This began as a comment under Saturday’s article on the new Covid-19 rules after the spike continued its rise with someone’s loved one now in critical care. I have since learnt that we now have a further ten active cases.

The Bermuda Government is facing backlash for protecting us from ourselves, and seems to have bowed to the many criticisms its safety restrictions have engendered by adding new rules that lack teeth — they are not preventive but after-the -fact measures. Akin to closing the barn door after the horse has bolted and scrambling to restore some semblance of control.

Once a bar is found to be non-compliant, it's too late to prevent the infections the non-compliance fostered. Likewise, the travel wristbands ignore the matter of those purposely not obtaining pretests to ensure they do not test positive before they get home. I've heard that this is a not uncommon strategy by the entitled to make sure their child or family member lands in Bermuda no matter the risk to others — yes, the ne plus ultra of selfishness.

I posit that since the Government knows who has not pre-tested upon check-in at the overseas airport, they should mandate that those without pre-tests be seated first at the back with a good six feet of distance between seats before the others are seated, and then should deplane last so they can be identified and properly separated and handled to prevent situations such as the tourists who had to fly home.

I was disheartened to hear how a number of tourists who followed our travel protocols found they had to either spend their getaway from Covid — as our marketing promises — in quarantine or return home because they were unwittingly seated close to a returning resident who didn’t bother with the pre-test but tested positive upon arrival. I truly hope their costs were reimbursed by the Government, as it was a dark day for Bermuda’s reputation and ultimately an embarrassment.

Bermuda has so far successfully marketed itself as a place to come to escape the virus, but one more reported instance where tourists land and then are told to quarantine for the duration of their stay or something similar — perhaps continued increases in cases because of “unknown” community transmission — would kill off that revenue stream and, worse, it would discredit us.

A reputation takes time and consistency to build. This government has done us proud so far, having built our Covid control measures — in a mere nine months — into an asset, yet we all know a lifetime of good can be erased in a single misstep. I fear that is a possibility [then again, as the United States and Britain continue to self-sabotage, allowing politics to make medical and scientific decisions absent the medical and scientific research to back these up, we can still recover because their abject failures give us a clear edge]. But not for much longer if this trend of rising cases, increased community spread and non-responsive regulations surrender our advantage for government and stakeholders’ need to serve similar political and self-serving agendas.

Gatherings should be kept to fewer than 20. Bars should be closed once food service ends. Neither of these and similar cutbacks should be unbearable, but losing loved ones will be and have been for many. It's life versus a Christmas party — I would rather survive this season alone and enjoy next year’s festivities with all of my friends and family in our homes and not visiting gravesites.

For those companies that hemmed and hawed over cancelling their office parties, and for those still proceeding, I really struggle to comprehend the thinking. If I were in the position to make a decision on behalf of a company, it would be a no-brainer. Every year there is a budget that makes room for office parties at Christmas and most I would guess amount to $150 to $300 per head. I would select one or both of these options:

1, Give every employee the choice for a gift certificate in that amount to spend at a selected choice of Bermuda businesses

2, Donate to the most extended charities such as those providing meals and safety/shelter

We are sharing this prosperous island with people who cannot feed themselves and their families, let alone buy a gift, and with others that may not have a roof over their heads in the next day or week. I would hope that most would choose to forgo their party and donate to the many who can't even satisfy an individual's basic needs of food, water, warmth and rest — a la Maslow.

Security and safety needs are a luxury for those without food. Just as we see who is swimming naked when the tide goes out, we also see who lacks the decency, compassion and selflessness of an evolved human being when extraordinarily difficult and challenging times affect everyone. I don't like what I am seeing, yet there's always others that come along and restore my faith in our species.

The Bermuda Government has done well in the first nine months of the pandemic but a single misstep could be ruinous (File photograph by Blaire Simmons)

Whatever inconveniences I've suffered — and they were unusually traumatic this past 18 months irrespective of Covid — are inconsequential to those who don't know where their next meal will come from, inter alia.

On that note, I have to question the Bermuda Industrial Union’s actions that further exacerbate the food shortages and therefore availability of it for donation to the people it purports to represent. I believe in unions, but they must serve their underlying raison d’être: to force employers to adopt moral, equitable employee policies and conditions where they have not.

The 1981 strike that formed Bermuda's unions brought about the necessary major correction of human rights violations in the workforce and should always be formed where such injustices prevail. In that time, the violations amounted to abuse. Too many of those who were privileged to be part of the business and landowning class that provided employment did not see beyond their own self-interest and even the long-term viability of their businesses with respect to treatment of their frontline employees, and unions rightfully forced them to treat these employees fairly and humanely.

But today, under the aforementioned conditions, this strike is unconscionable and its organisers have lost the moral high ground. Where is the Government in this? The media reports and press conferences seem to simply bypass what has become the proverbial elephant in the room, except the elephant is stuck on the docks eating all the fresh food.

We can all live without a tree that was felled specifically to be dressed up as a tribute to disco or a hazard for epileptics, but we need the food. The fresher, the better. And it's not me, not the wealthy and not the uber rich that will go hungry or without — it's our most vulnerable people, those that the unions were originally created to protect.

Is the alliance, or conflict, between the Progressive Labour Party and the BIU causing an impasse because of the politics? I hope not, but if it is, then we are already making the missteps where posturing, ego and power games play Russian roulette with its citizens', residents' and stakeholders' lives, and ultimately our island's future and timeline for economic recovery.

There is a time to rise above the vanity of human wishes and serve the greater good. That time is now.



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Published December 07, 2020 at 8:00 am (Updated December 07, 2020 at 12:42 pm)

Government must serve greater good

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