Leading figures in the entertainment, arts and events industry have pushed back on Government’s blame for the recent spike in COVID-19 cases on a bus crawl.
In a lengthy joint statement issued Monday by The Barbados Association of Event Professionals (BAEP) and the Entertainment Association of Barbados (EAB), the two groups declared the industry will not be “vilified as the vector of spread locally”.
The EAB and the BAEP together represent the wide cross-section of people who work directly and indirectly in the creative economy, that is, the arts, events promotion and entertainment. The EAB’s president is Rudy Maloney while the BAEP is headed by Dwayne Best.
The joint statement read: “Government felt it prudent to use the unfortunate infection of patrons who attended a Boxing Day ‘Bus Crawl’, to cast blame in the events and entertainment industry and nullify our long-standing efforts to operate safely in a COVID-19 environment.
“The hasty labelling of the event as a “super-spreader” by the government, despite PAHO’s determination that such was too early to assess, sought to herald and vilify the event as the primary cause of the present situation, in which the country now finds itself, with respect to the increasing number of confirmed cases of COVID-19. Moreover, to the point where the names of other similar events were mentioned and the event style was specifically banned indefinitely.”
The EAB and BAEP charged that the authorities’ repeated chiding of the bus crawl and similar events have taken a heavy toll on their business.
“The constant berating and public castigation by Government results in an unjustified public perception that impacts negatively on our businesses,” the statement added. “The reluctance by Government to acknowledge culpability in the face of such breaches on any other sector other than the events and entertainment sector, in the form of bans and fines, is unfortunate. Perhaps the apology extended to Sandals may at some point find its way to this industry.”
The associations said that while they stand committed to doing their part to help rebuild the economy, they will not tolerate being “vilified”.
They declared: “We are ready to do what is necessary to move past this current setback and to help to rebuild the economy and maintain the safe “bubble” that makes Barbados a successful pandemic management model and attractive destination.
“What we are not willing to do, is to continue to be tolerant of being vilified as the vector of spread locally.”
The statement also reminded Government that the entertainment industry has been one of the hardest hit by the national COVID-19 fallout.
“As professionals in the events and entertainment industry, we have been one of the hardest hit by the negative impact of the global pandemic. It has affected our ability to conduct business, to create employment for thousands of people, and to provide for our families,” it said.
The groups praised Government for doing a good job in managing the pandemic but they charged that the systems implemented by Government had broken down in recent times.
The EAB and BAEP said: “While we understand the need to stimulate our economy through facilitating the ability of our Tourism sector to generate revenue during the winter season, it is evident that with the increased number of visitors, came the breakdown of the systems instituted by Government which protected the island for several months.
“The longer we as a nation fail to control the impact of the virus locally, the longer we as an industry will suffer the curtailment of our business through government enforcement as a measure to control the spread of the virus.”
The two organisations said that despite the “distressing” nature of the COVID-19 spike narrative they are ready to move beyond that to chart the way forward.
“It is our hope that our partners in the tourism industry, venues and food and beverage establishments, will join us in what we have been doing for months, working closely with COVID-19 Monitoring Unit in seeking to conduct business in a safe environment for everyone without incident,” the statement read,
“We look forward to the establishing of a direct strategic dialogue and participation with the social partnership as a part of future public-private sector consultations.” (IMC)