Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by this author are their own and do not represent the official position of the Barbados Today.
by Dr Derek Alleyne
There’s a hole in the bucket, dear Liza, dear Liza; There’s a hole in the bucket dear Liza a hole….
For a time we were told we were COVID-19 free and we believed…. Infomercials were taken off the air waves and from top to bottom; among the rich, the poor and the in-between, there were pictures of social gatherings, smiling faces, bright white teeth not hidden by masks.
In fact, we were made to believe that all was fine and dandy until Brandy and Punanny was blamed!
Early in our COVID-19 fight, in March 2020, the then Czar Richard Carter, informed us about the stages of response and the protocols associated with each stage.
The policymakers were “following the science” and were being guided by it. Some flights had stopped coming and, with local cases increasing from 18 on March 24th to 34 by March 30th, swift action was required.
Sixteen cases in six days were enough to warrant a restriction in our movements along with a slew of other measures aimed at containing the spread of the virus.
Fast forward to the present “second wave”.
By October 1, 2020, Barbados had recorded 193 cases in total and this number continued to climb.
Total COVID cases increased from 297 reported on December 15th to 395 reported on December 31st; to 606 by January 2nd and 878 by January 9th.
Between October 1 and December 31, 2020, Barbados recorded 202 new COVID cases. Between December 31st 2020 and January 9th 2021, nine days, we recorded 483 cases.
We locked the country down when 16 cases were recorded in six days.
We recorded 70 cases on January 9th alone.
How have our policymakers responded now that we have recorded 483 cases in nine days? They have:
1. Chastised citizens in general and prison officers, in particular, for “letting their guard down” and not following
2. Implemented a 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew;
3. Closed churches;
4. Reiterated that the borders will remain open because our economy cannot support closure;
5. Continued to invite visitors to the island because Barbados needs the foreign exchange;
6. Acquired electronic monitoring bands;
7. Reminded citizens of the healthy state of the country’s (borrowed) foreign reserves;
8. Continued to push our health care human resources beyond reasonable limits;
9. Advised of the intention to seek additional medical practitioners from Cuba and of the utilisation
of BARP volunteers;
10. Restarted infomercials;
11. Announced that taxpayers’ dollars would be spent on refunding visitors the cost of their hotel stays where test results have been delayed (even though the number of persons to whom this will apply, the effective implementation date and likely cost of this undertaking are all unknown);
12. Committed to free return travel to Barbados for affected visitors (including families) (even though the number of persons to whom this will apply, the effective implementation date and likely cost of this undertaking
are all unknown);
13. Categorised testing priorities and set timelines for the communication of results;
14. Established a communications team to liaise with the local public;
15. Executed a strategy to integrate and effectively mute the President of BAMP Dr Lynda Williams.
There is a hole in the bucket dear Liza – a hole.
Few, if any, of the government’s responses tackle our immediate challenge.
The simple truth is this.
We continue to invite persons to come to Barbados. Those we invite are travelling from countries in which this virus is rampant, uncontrolled and manifesting a new variant.
The likelihood of their infection is very high.
As a result, the likelihood of our citizens becoming infected is also now greater.
In all this, the government and social partners have determined that our borders will remain open to
benefit “the economy”.
I trust they also understand and appreciate that citizens who fall ill or die also negatively impact the economy.
With 483 new cases, including cases of “local transmission”, insisting that while the borders remain open our best response is to sanitize and wear masks until the arrival of the vaccine suggests to me that Barbadians are considered acceptable collateral damage as they play Russian roulette with our lives while focusing their attention on protecting the economy.
This is difficult to understand and it offends my sense of reason. Our policy makers insist on “inviting guests” to this country because of the foreign exchange they bring. But having to purchase what we cannot produce to keep us safe from the persons we invite into the country sends foreign dollars out of the country.
The risk of citizens’ exposure and infection from visitors increase as more tourists visit and as positive cases among them increase.
Recall that last year Ellerslie Secondary School was closed for two weeks.
Why was this action taken? Sanitizing hands and wearing masks minimize but do not eliminate the risk of contracting the virus. Those measures are precautions against the virus and not foolproof prescriptions.
Our government is in reacting mode and there is no plan in place at this stage. Their approach can damage the Barbados brand and can damage our country’s image.
More than this though, the health of our citizens are also knowingly and deliberately being put at risk.
All this in pursuit of money that will ultimately not increase our own wealth. It defies all logic.
Why is this being done to us?
There’s a hole in the bucket!
Dr Derek Alleyne is a trade unionist, social commentator and member of the Democratic