The Mia-Mottley administration has been cautioned against placing economic prosperity over the health and well-being of Barbadians by rushing to reopening to tourists as some international carriers announce the return of flights in the coming weeks.
The People’s Party for Democracy and Development (PdP) spokesperson on health, Paul Gibson contended that such a decision should only be made when an acceptable testing and quarantine arrangement is established, as he recalled that approximately 80 per cent of Barbados’ 97 Covid-19 cases originated outside of Barbados.
Stakeholders have been meeting this week to discuss details of a possible reopening and according to some reports, there is general support for the return of commercial traffic from as early as July 1.
Gibson however argued: “The thinking behind such an initiative would be faulty, because money cannot be more important than the lives of Barbadians. Barbadians have to eat, but you can’t be opening your doors to possibly kill more Barbadians from COVID.
“There is no magic bullet to solving this issue. It’s a long-term challenge that we have to grapple with, but we cannot get careless. Barbadian lives are important and so we need to be extremely cautious about that suggestion of not quarantining,” the PdP spokesperson added.
Last week, Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA) Chairman Rudy Grant revealed that JetBlue, Air Canada and American Airlines were all desirous of resuming service to Barbados next month. However, Prime Minister Mia Mottley indicated that the country would not be held to a specific date until protocols have been properly implemented.
Since then, the PM has invited Canadians to “come home” to Barbados for relief from the stress of COVID-19 while on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC)’s Power and Politics. United Kingdom companies in the meantime have announced plans to commence a weekly charter starting July 3. Efforts to reach Minister of Tourism Kerrie Symmonds for an update on the developments have been unsuccessful.
In the meantime, Gibson suggested that in addition to testing and quarantining visitors, officials ought to account for the possibility that although some may have been tested prior to travel, they may be in the early stages of infection and would need additional quarantine for tests to detect the virus. The spokesman, a pharmacist by profession, argued that such costs ought to be borne by the visitors.
He added that even if specific protocols were put in place to govern tourists and sub-sectors within the tourism industry, it would be difficult to enforce compliance.
“I don’t think it would be easy at all. We will have very little control over what tourists do because they are generally coming here to throw off their shackles and chains. So it is going to be very difficult to control and manage. We have seen how difficult it is to rein in people on the beaches of Florida,” Gibson argued.
“It makes no sense opening the doors without quarantining or testing and we must have an intelligent conversation about it that looks at the fact that people’s lives will be lost. New York has never used so many body bags in the history of America and they ran out of storage because of the sheer number of deaths related to COVID and we must consider these things before we open our doors to allow people in here without quarantining and testing,” he added.
Across the Caribbean, island states which also depend heavily on tourism for jobs and investment have already started welcoming visitors.
Antigua and Barbuda has been open since June 4 and is subjecting visitors to mandatory temperature check and nasal swab tests with rapid results. On Thursday, Jamaica re-opened its borders to international visitors with very few restrictions. The Bahamas meanwhile has only opened its borders to tourists on very specific charter flights along with international boaters and yachters.
The PdP spokesman is however unmoved by these developments and instead suggests that Barbados use the opportunity to develop other industries like international business, the creative industries and agriculture.
Read our ePaper. Fast. Factual. Free.
Sign up and stay up to date with Barbados' FREE latest news.