There are going to be times when repairs and renovations on a house are so extensive and troublesome, they cannot be undertaken safely unless the house is vacated to avoid harm to the occupants.
The current administration has been trying to undertake necessary but extensive COVID-19 repairs to the island while the occupants are still going about their usual business, with too many of us caring little for the threat posed to our health.
Sadly, the Boxing Day “super-spreader” event has jolted us back to reality. Mind you, we are still to be convinced that the infamous Brandy and Punanny bus crawl on December 26 should attract all the blame for the mind-blowing burst in COVID-19 infections on the island.
Many Barbadians are in a state of shock. We share their anguish too, as some of us were lulled into a false sense of security by the repeated claims of “no community spread” on the island. The declaration during the summer that we were “COVID-free” left us overjoyed. We had managed to beat back this monster after it had taken seven lives during its early approach in the months of March, April and May last year.
Despite the rising COVID cases, with each plane-load of happy-go-lucky tourists at the Grantley Adams International Airport, we somehow felt our Bajan insulation would protect us. That our visitors “loved us” so much they would be compliant with our rules and not put “Little England” at risk of being overrun with this deadly disease.
Yes. It was a level of naivety of which we should be ashamed. The evidence on our cable television screens told us a different story. Some of these people could care less about the “islanders”. They were here to have a great holiday, escape the cold, the COVID outbreaks and lockdowns in Europe and North America.
Even high profile Canadian politician, Pierre Arcand of the Quebec Liberal MNA party was spotted on the island’s West Coast with his wife, after issuing repeated requests of his countrymen not to travel during the pandemic.
He risked the leisure holiday he promised his wife because he, like many others, regarded Barbados as “the safest place in the world to be” during the pandemic.
Well it has come to naught. St Vincent, has rightly placed us in the “high risk” category for travellers following a Christmas of bliss and merriment on the island. We fully expect that others will follow suit despite our previous stellar performance in managing the viral illness.
It was in our December 20 editorial that we cautioned that too many Barbadians were letting their guard down and unless we applied restraints, we were courting danger.
Following the West Coast ‘cluster’ that impacted employees of a luxury villa, reports were rife that wealthy visitors were ignoring the health protocols and behaving in the same belligerent manner that caused the horrid COVID-19 outbreaks in their own countries.
As Dr. Don Marshall, head of the Sir Arthur Lewis Institute for Social and Economic Studies (SALISES) at the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies, said in a social media post: “Breaches all around have led to local transmission and an increasing public appeal to ban inbound flights from the United Kingdom and the United States of America. This has not yet been heeded by the Government . . . . Barbados is at a crisis point in relation to its source markets for tourists. . . . Barbados will have to consider closing its borders to those two source countries hardest hit and any others if it is to reassure the resident population.
“It also presents an opportune moment to tackle the socio-economic makeover of the country as a first step to diversifying the economy.”
We could not have said it better Dr Marshall.
If the Administration wants to get the current COVID-19 explosion under control as quickly as possible, there are very few options open to them. No tepid, 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew will do the job. Some medical experts suspect the highly infectious variant of COVID-19 is already on island and likely responsible for the rapid spread of COVID-19 cases witnessed in recent days.
As difficult as it may be for our highly vulnerable business community, a lockdown may be the only available course of action to allow for long-term sustainability. Unless the Mottley administration can have urgent access to the COVID vaccines to begin a rapid vaccination process in the population, a lockdown may be our best hope to tackle this disease.