The Oppostion People’s Party for Democracy (PdP) has called on Government to reconsider its travelling protocols and test every visitor who passes through the Grantley Adams International Airport.
Opposition Leader Bishop Joseph Atherley said the move was necessary, especially due to the fact that Barbados was opening its borders to visitors from the US, currently a hotbed of COVID-19 as 42 states experience a renewed surge in cases and deaths.
He said the protocol as outlined by Minister of Tourism Kerrie Symmonds which would see visitors being tested 72 hours before their flight to Barbados, also needs to be revamped.
Bishop Atherley declared he was “trusting the voice of Government”, as he assumed it was being guided by the best advice from health officials, but said he believed stricter protocols were needed.
The PdP leader said: “It is insufficient that three days before a person departs their place of origin to come to Barbados that that person is tested. What if the person then develops an awareness of the infection subsequent to those three days, after having travelled here or even on the flight coming down here? Then what is in place to make sure the person is properly tested here?
“Testing should be in place before they leave at a requisite time such that you minimize the chances you are boarding somebody on a flight who has been tested 72 hours before as opposed to 24 or 48 hours before they come here.”
Bishop Atherley also suggested that testing protocols at the airport need to be ramped up.
He said: “The fact is that the epicentre of this thing is now reposed in this part of the world. Much of our airline traffic is going to come out of North America, in particular the United States, and we would want to stress that it is not sufficient to test people just a few days before they leave on a flight.
“We need to ensure that there is proper and adequate testing on arrival and that persons coming from places like that would be subjected to testing protocols. It may present challenges but that is why I’m saying that just because it presents a challenge abandon your responsibility to the Barbadian people to protect our health here.
“So it may be challenging but if you are going to look to open up the sky for people to come then you have to consider all of these things and that’s why we are saying a cautious approach is necessary.”
But the PdP leader expressed sympathy with Government.
With the economy in dire straits, thousands of people unemployed and businesses struggling to recover from the shutdown, Bishop Atherley said he understood why the decision was taken to reopen the airport to commercial flights.
But he warned that caution could not be thrown to the wind.
Bishop Atherley said: “Though one can understand the pressures which Government finds itself faced, that is the demands upon the National Insurance Scheme, the pressures of a shortage of revenue because of a downturn in the economic activity, particularly so the total stalling of the tourism sector, and though businesses continue to flounder in the absence of such economic activity, the position of the PdP’s view is that we should be cautious with how we go about that.
“It is ironic that at this time the World Health Organization is telling us that this part of the world, the Americas and not only North America, have now become the epicentre for this pandemic. It suggests, therefore, that we have to be ultra cautious as to allowing flights in here from the US and places like that.”
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