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Was that a road map? – a statement from OBA Senate leader Ben Smith

By April 30, 2021May 5th, 2021No Comments

For several weeks now I have been suggesting we need a “road map” for Bermuda. A clear and concise plan of how we will get through our current situation and how we will reach the other side of this pandemic.

Like many people in Bermuda, I waited on Sunday for the Premier’s promised road map. Instead of a road map, it felt more like a US presidential address to the Nation. Yes, we heard some plans, a desire for more vaccinations and what will happen at our border. But what about the plan for the majority of our citizens? Those who have not traveled since last March. The average everyday Bermudian, following all the rules and regulations.

For most of us it’s about the complete control Government has imposed on our lives, from when you can shop, if you can leave your house, whether you can see your friends and loved ones. People are exhausted and frustrated. On Sunday we were looking for hope from the Premier. Sadly, we did not get it. There was no real road map.

When you are actually driving, if you don’t have a road map, you ask questions so that you can figure out a way to get to your destination. Yet when reporters have been asking for directions on behalf of all of us, few directions have been given. How many times must we hear “we don’t have that information in front of us”. How many times are we told “that information will come from another Minister”, yet we never hear from that Minister. The cycle that Bermuda has been in with this Pandemic has left the population frustrated. Some businesses are on the brink. There is further division between the haves and have nots. And there is genuine despair.

If you are a single mother of two school age children and have been laid off, you have real questions that need real answers. Does the unemployment benefit cover your expenses? Are you able to keep up the rent? Can you put food on the table and internet for your children to do remote learning? If your child was falling behind before COVID, then how far will they be after the interruptions and remote learning? That mother and all the other Bermudians who have followed the rules need real answers and a real plan. I don’t have all the answers, but here are a few.

We all need to get back to work and that needs to be a priority. Waiting until June will kill off many small to medium business.

No Mixing of households is a concept that only really works if we are in shelter in place. One exemption creates the mixing of households and then creates a divide.

Some businesses have been able to flourish during this last 13 months, while others have continued to suffer. Most restaurants are holding on by a thread. Commercial boating and other tourism industry services have been crippled. The only way for us to get back on the road map is to get back to work.

The vaccine and herd Immunity, or community immunity or whatever other way we want to say it, has been given as the only solution to get back to work. We need the real statistics on what number of our population is needed to reach our target. If reaching that target gets delayed further, then how long can we survive with government making payments, with lower revenue, and with people away from work?

The solution is to put out a testing plan for all business in the public and private sector. Use the saliva test plan that was being implemented for contact sports on a full scale. Provide each business with testing twice per week. Maintain a sanitization plan, where everyone continues to practice hand hygiene. With mask wearing when you cannot socially distance. People will follow those rules and will do what it takes for the community so that we all can get back to work. Maybe there would need to be testers or test collectors with self-testing that go from business to business each week. Each business could then be fully opened once registered with the testing and sanitization plan.

Mental health is important too. I believe that having us fully open will allow for much-needed social interaction, with different points of view communicated at the water cooler, instead of only social media interactions, which can lead anyone down a rabbit hole.

Our children need to be back at school and doing sports, our people need to be back at work, and we all need our social interactions.

Yes, there have to be changes at the border, to slow down the virus coming in and reduce the risk of new variants arriving, yet those are changes that should have been implemented long ago.

We need a clear and concise plan. We need to find a way to deal with the small minority who don’t follow the rules, while not further restricting the majority who do. We need a road map. And when the people ask for directions, we need to have those answers given and not deflected.

Finally, everyone please take every opportunity to do something physical. The COVID extra weight that many have gained could mean our health crisis will be much worse after the Pandemic. We have mostly followed the rules to keep our population safe, so let’s work together to get in shape, become healthy, and get on the road to recovery together.