EDITORIAL: The vaccine can restore our health - and the health of our economy

THE battle to develop a COVID-19 vaccine has been won – now begins another battle, this time to convince people to take it.

Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis yesterday gave a national address in which he implored Bahamians to take the vaccine when they get the opportunity.

He said that when a large percentage of people have been vaccinated, the country will be able to open up more – and it will likely be a requirement for overseas travel and cruise lines.

Dr Minnis also warned against some of the misinformation circulating on social media – calling on people to rely on trusted news sources and official outlets rather than unaccountable comments on Facebook and Whatsapp.

The battle to win hearts and minds on the need to take the vaccine is one being conducted around the world.

In today’s article by Sir Ronald Sanders in Insight, you can read about the slow pace at which vaccines are being rolled out around the world, with the Caribbean likely to be a year behind Britain and the US in its vaccinations.

Sir Ronald also points out that churches whose leaders have been preaching against the vaccine are doing their followers no good – nor their countries.

Across in the US, churches are playing a key part in spreading the word about vaccinations. A divide has emerged in the rollout of vaccinations in the US, with residents of black communities making up significantly higher amounts of the COVID-19 deaths totals, but lagging behind when it comes to take-up of vaccinations. Officials in Washington are turning to the church and pastors to help close that gap, to convince people that the vaccine is the way forward.

The facts come down to this – to achieve herd immunity, the higher the percentage of people taking the vaccine the better. Without that immunity, the virus keeps spreading to people, it keeps thriving… and the country stays shut down. Neighbouring nations aren’t going to want to let people in from countries where the virus remains uncontained – and tourists aren’t going to want to come visit them either.

“Proof of vaccination may be one of the critical measures in helping the tourism industry to bounce back around the world,” warned Dr Minnis, who added that he would take the vaccine, that he would urge family and friends to take the vaccine and who said: “By getting vaccinated you will help the country to return to a greater level of normalcy.”

We can’t imagine many people are happy with things going on the way they are – so that’s the choice, take the vaccine, or stay as we are with curfews and lockdowns and the fear of the virus taking away our loved ones.

Put like that, who would choose the latter?

Curfew inequality

The Tribune today reports on large crowds at the Cabbage Beach Bar & Grill, which we witnessed operating in full swing after curfew with hardly a mask in sight.

There are many businesses which have abided by the curfew restrictions – even when to do so cost them financially. There are businesses which have kept their doors closed when it is hurting them every day – along with the hurt caused to staff who can’t come in and earn their wage.

So to see some businesses abiding by the rules and others seemingly not doing so is frustrating to say the least.

That frustration only increases when – as The Tribune did – those places operating outside the rules are reported to the police only for very little to happen.

The Tribune was there to see 85 cars along the road to the Cabbage Beach venue – including one bearing a red government plate, #GV0*.

We were there to see people shoulder to shoulder in the venue, we were there to note the absence of masks – and to see people smoking marijuana openly. There was even an executive of a prominent corporation present – although he exited at pace.

Finally, shortly after his exit, a solitary police car arrived. None of the flashy COVID Ambassador vehicles in sight.

There was no rush to leave, and the police officers were seen chatting to management while drinking something given to them in white Styrofoam cups. No fines were witnessed being issued, although a former PLP cabinet minister was seen taking his leave.

By the time The Tribune left, the crowd was still largely there – and we understand the party resumed.

In The Tribune, we have reported numerous court cases involving people breaking COVID regulations that tug at the heart – the story of the boy fined for selling coconuts, the story of a man fined as he went for water, and more besides.

It cannot be that there is one rule for one, and a different rule for another. All of those in attendance should have known this was not appropriate – and some of those in attendance are connected politically enough to absolutely know this was wrong.

This will not be the last time The Tribune passes this venue – we hope the police will be taking a keener interest as well. If they do not, we will report that too.