EDITORIAL: We must not become numb to COVID death toll

THE biggest issue facing The Bahamas before the election remains the biggest issue facing the nation after the election.

We have had the pomp and ceremony of swearing in new MPs, a new Prime Minister, a host of ministers and the Speech from the Throne – and COVID-19 is still spreading, still infecting people, and sadly still claiming too many lives.

Dr Duane Sands may no longer be in Parliament, but his voice still speaks loudly when it comes to dealing with the pandemic.

The death toll now stands at 605, and the numbers of fatalities have been climbing shockingly.

Or at least it should be shocking – but how the public is reacting to this spike in deaths is one area where Dr Sands is concerned.

“It is almost as if they’ve become numb to it,” he said.

“Literally people are dying in droves. The numbers tell a horrible story.”

Dying in droves. Think on that for a moment.

We have seen ourselves an increase in the number of obituaries received at The Tribune – every week this newspaper is carrying extra pages for our obituaries section at present and there seems little sign of that relenting.

For those who have become numb to the constant rise in deaths, we urge you to read the story of Rosa Bastian and her mother, who both fell ill with COVID and had to be airlifted out of Mangrove Cay on Wednesday last week.

Ms Bastian died on Friday, while being prepared for transfer from a tent at Princess Margaret Hospital to Doctors Hospital.

Her last voice note to friends and family, in a breathless voice, asked for prayers. She said: “I request your prayers… all of you. My mom and I are COVID-19 positive. We’re doing our best, but we could always use some prayers. So please pray for us. Thank you so much.”

It was the last they would hear from her.

Our hospitals remain overwhelmed. As Dr Sands says, “We do not have the critical care nursing capacity to manage what’s happening in the hospital. That is a categorical statement. That’s not an opinion.”

So what do we do? Dr Sands says: “Where we are right now, unless we are prepared to accept a certain level of scheduled deaths, we’re going to need to modify dramatically policy and our behaviour.

“Either we are going to accept that a number of us die because of the number of ventilators that we have, the number of critical care nurses we have, the number of beds that we can’t staff or we’re going to make changes so that we bring the number of new cases of COVID in line with what we’re able to manage safely and adequately.”

Dr Sands is of course a former Health Minister in the previous administration. The man in that role now is Dr Michael Darville who has a different opinion. He says he doesn’t believe additional restrictions are necessary as infection rates are currently “going down”.

This should not be a matter for party politics, of course. This is a battle measured in grim metrics – how many are dying, how many are in intensive care.

Dealing with the pandemic was going to be the biggest challenge for any new government, regardless of who won the election. For the PLP, this was not a disaster of their making, but it is a disaster they have inherited and have to deal with.

We cannot become numb to the mounting deaths of our brothers and sisters. We cannot shrug it off as the price we must pay for reopening the economy.

Every life, such as that of Rosa Bastian, is precious and we have to do what we can to save each one.

Campaign pledges by the PLP, such as free testing for COVID, need to be implemented as a priority if that is how they see us getting through this battle.

Until then, we have to be prepared to sometimes put our foot on the brake again, and introduce restrictions where needed if it will help our overwhelmed health system.

The new government has the biggest job to do that could possibly be asked of it. Our lives are very much in their hands. We must do nothing less than all that is necessary.