In a matter of days, the coronavirus COVID -19 has moved from being a distant threat to a real possibility here.
Since Jamaica declared its first imported case on Tuesday, March 10, in quick succession several other Caribbean countries caught the bug.
Guyana, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, Martinique, Guadeloupe, the Cayman Islands, Antigua and Barbuda and Cuba all have confirmed cases.
All this occurred as the Pan American Health Organisation/World Health Organisation declared the COVID-19 a pandemic.
In Barbados, there are still no suspected or confirmed cases of the virus. Yet. There were eight suspected cases and all have tested negative for COVID-19.
Yet we have been gripped by a pandemic of fear.
This week, a visit to most supermarkets and other shopping outlets was a trying exercise as Bajans rushed out to stock up on hand sanitizers, wipes, toilet paper, soap, bleach and all types of cleaning agents.
In some places, there were even skirmishes as tempers flared. Disappointing and unnecessary to say the least.
But this is not to downplay the serious threat COVID-19 presents.
This new viral strain most definitely should not be ignored. Preparation is key.
But it is smart preparation that can protect us against the risk. Panic triggers unwise choices.
Frantic shopping and hoarding are not smart.
It won’t help stem the spread of the disease if one family has five gallons of bleach, five packages of disinfectant wipes, and ten bottles of hand sanitizer while another has none because stores have sold out
No one can deny the need to protect yourself and family from this deadly flu is reasonable. Indeed having an emergency supply of household goods and food makes good sense.
But in this case, aren’t we just hoarding because fear and selfishness have taken over.
Hoarding drives inequality. It creates the haves and the have nots and we can ill afford such a practice in good times much less bad ones.
It’s people who can afford to stock up who will be making the big purchases. Many low-income people are not going to be able to buy extra goods all at once.
According to medical professionals, the coronavirus will affect the most vulnerable the hardest.
Medical professionals tell us the elderly and those who have underlying medical conditions such as diabetes and other non-communicable diseases and respiratory illnesses are at risk.
Therefore, as a community, we have to look out for one another and ensure that all have access to the necessary cleaning agents.
We endorse today’s calls by the Chamber of Commerce & Industry for Barbadians to desist from panic buying in light of the heightened alert surrounding COVID-19.
In a statement, the Chamber warned, “There is no need for panic buying. Ironically this practice can result in unnecessary food and supply shortages particularly for the more economically vulnerable in our society.
We recognize that there is currently a shortage of hand sanitizers but wish to remind the public that there are even more effective alternatives such as antibacterial soap, which medical experts emphasize is the preferred and most effective option.”
The BCCI also assured that there are adequate supplies of food and essential items to meet the needs of all Barbadians in the event of the impact of COVID-19.
The situation is concerning, but Barbadians need to respond with calm and reason and as a community.
As we navigate the uncertainty of this illness, we should turn our focus to accurate information and authoritative voices like our health experts to make the right decisions.
We should ignore wild posts circulating on social media and stop sharing rumours and false information.
And always, we must keep our hands clean.