The latest edition of the Emergency Management COVID-19 Orders, Directive No. 7 which covers the period to April 11, is a glaring indication that Barbados is still very much in the throes of this deadly pandemic.
As we prepare for a partial shutdown of the country over the Easter Weekend, in an attempt to curb any possible COVID-19 super-spreaders, Barbadians are being asked to further control their desire to socialise.
It is natural, after so many months of numbing restrictions, to want to be in the company of friends and family, and converse about anything other than the COVID-19 pandemic, infections, job losses, business closures and fears about the future.
But alas. This is a year requiring fortitude, restraint and compliance. If we are to emerge from this devastating period, strong enough to rebuild and focus on resurgence, it will require a degree of patience that we may not have exhibited in decades.
The complaints from Barbadians are increasing by the day, and COVID-19 fatigue is setting in. Citizens are understandably anxious and impatient. The thousands who have lost their jobs in the hospitality and retail sectors want nothing more than to be back on the job and earning an income.
In the United Kingdom, for example, anti-lock down protests have degenerated into violence, as citizens battle with law enforcement officers seeking to enforce the public health orders.
But as the older folk often say: “Be careful what you ask for.”
England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty has warned United Kingdom residents that despite all the efforts to curb infections, there was “high likelihood” that cases will increase as that country begins to loosen restrictions on citizens’ movements.
From Downing Street, Professor Whitty cautioned that it was among the younger UK citizens that cases were expected to rise because so many of them have not yet been vaccinated.
And just as Barbadian authorities have asked people to be sensible, the British health officials are also battling with the same message. Important too, was the admission from British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, that his Government was unsure about the country’s defences against another wave of the virus which is being experienced by other European countries.
Why is all this important for us in Barbados, it may be asked. The local business community is eager to resume some kind of normalcy as cases are apparently on the decline. We say apparently, simply because the total number of Barbadians being tested is also falling.
COVID testing required
Without a systematic testing campaign, it is still impossible to know the full extent of COVID-19 infections on the island. The thrice weekly Press conferences by the official Communications Committee of experts have waned significantly without explanation.
This has occurred, regrettably, when a number of fundamental questions remain on the table. These include uncertainty about the official decision to resume face-to-face instruction in our schools next month, while teachers are seeking a delay until September.
At the same time, the business community is champing at the bit to have customers return in their numbers as business owners attempt to regain some of the ground that was lost due to forced business closures.
With Britain likely to soon reverse some its heavy travel restrictions on citizens, tourism planners here must be both excited and cautious. The announcements also from some cruise operators that they are ready to take bookings for cruises in June, and will be homeporting in Barbados, must also be welcome news.
The return to face-to-face classes in our schools, the resumption of cruise tourism, the return of in-dining at restaurants other than fast food outlets, and with a quarter of our eligible population already vaccinated with the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, a premature and misguided impression may be formed that Barbados is out of the woods.
We fully expect that this country’s entertainment community will be questioning why some small-scale entertainment events, at least, are not allowed to take place.
We caution our health planners and our captains of industry to exercise a great deal of restraint when decisions are made about fully reopening the economy and acceding to the demands for us to move on from COVID-19.
As much of Europe is currently experiencing its third wave of coronavirus infections, we may be tired of COVID-19, but the viral disease certainly is not ready to go away and is not done with us.