With the threat of the Coronavirus pandemic drawing ever closer to Barbados, the Opposition People’s Party for Democracy and Development (PdP) today called on the Mia Mottley administration to provide clarity on its plans for Crop Over and We Gatherin’ celebrations.
Noting that health experts strongly advocate social distancing as a means of curtailing the spread of the illness, the PdP says Government needs to make a decision on these major events, so that stakeholders and the public can prepare themselves accordingly.
Speaking at a press conference this morning, convened at the Parliamentary Opposition’s temporary office in Hastings, party spokesperson on culture Allan Springer, cautioned Government to “exercise wisdom” about large gatherings.
He told reporters: “The public is demanding answers as it relates to Crop Over and those demands cannot be ignored.
“Therefore, on behalf of all Barbadians we want to ask a number of pertinent questions.
“If we look at Germany, for example, that government has declared that events hosting more than 1000 people will be cancelled, while Hungary with just 13 cases has declared a state of emergency.
“Closer to home, Jamaica cancelled the University of the West Indies carnival, claiming that this virus must be treated like an oncoming hurricane.”
When asked to respond, Minister of Culture and the Creative Economy John King told Barbados TODAY that any decision on Crop Over will be based on the guidance of public health experts.
King said: “There are a lot of things that are out of our control. For example, I can’t tell you if people are going to come or not going to come, as it is a global pandemic. So, all of the protocols have already been articulated and that’s what we are following.
“The Ministry of Health will take the lead on this issue and we will follow the protocols that they have established.
“The health experts are the ones who would advise on the issue of Crop Over, we would be guided by their assessment.”
But Springer argued that due to the extensive planning which goes into the festival, Government simply could not afford to take the wait-and-see approach to this matter.
Springer called on Government to advise the nation on the planning for this year’s Crop Over.
He said: “It should be noted that with the main push of Crop Over occurring in the June and July months, now is the time that many Barbadians around the world will be looking to make their flight bookings and finalizing vacation accommodations.
“They will desperately need to hear of our plans for Crop Over this year before they make arrangements, but we have heard nothing from Government on this issue.
“There are those who would be putting plans together for their own participation, costumes to be designed and made, songs to be written, venues to be hired and equipment to be bought.”
Also weighing in on the issue, President of the Democratic Labour Party (DLP), Verla DePeiza, noted that enough information was already in the public domain for people to make an informed decision about Crop Over events or other large social gatherings.
DePeiza said: “Every person having autonomy and responsibility for themselves, even if events are not cancelled, can make that determination as to whether or not it makes sense to go.
“The guidance right now calls for social distancing and that is all the instruction that a citizen needs to determine whether or not they should go to a fete.”
Barbados has so far not recorded any cases of COVID-19, however neighbours St Vincent and St Lucia, together with Jamaica, Trinidad, Guyana and French St Martin, have confirmed cases.
Prime Minister Mottley had rolled out an action plan for the worst-case scenario, which includes heightened security at the borders, quarantine and testing capabilities, as well protection of vulnerable groups.
But the plan does not mention the major events for the rest of the calendar year. [email protected]