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#BTColumn – The COVID-19 experience

by Barbados Today Traffic
6 min read

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by this author are their own and do not represent the official position of the Barbados Today Inc.

by Dennis De Peiza

The world is breathing sighs of relief from lockdowns and stay-at-home orders that were issued as a direct result of the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A return to a state of normalcy, now largely depends on the behaviour and actions of citizens, residents and governments of respective countries. If caution were to be thrown to the wind, the fear, panic and pandemonium which were present at the initial outbreak of the pandemic, are all likely to return.

To ensure that the status quo is maintained, it would require that the public health measures of wearing a mask, washing and sanitisation of hands and maintaining the three-feet social distance, will have to be tolerated for a little while longer.

In years to come, those who would have lived through this horrific experience, would recall the inconvenience, pain, anguish and suffering the pandemic caused.

There will be lasting memories of the millions who died across the world to the disease and whose bodies were unceremoniously disposed of in mass graves.

Worse yet, there would be the lingering memories held by family members who did not have the opportunity to see their loved ones in a hospital or on their death bed. Some will contend that they were denied the opportunity to attend the funeral service and the burial of their loved one.

Healthcare and other frontline workers will never forget the sacrifice they were called upon to make during this difficult time. History will recall that the medical and nursing staff along with Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT), were placed in a most difficult situation of having to put their lives on the line, as they carried out their professional duties to serve, which are linked to patient care and saving the lives of others.

The response to their efforts was to provide a token of appreciation in the form of hazard pay. Such an incentive though appropriated, is only temporary in nature. This episode has exposed the fact that workers in the healthcare sector need to be better remunerated. This also brings to the fore the need for improved salaries to be paid to nurses, police officers and teachers, all of whom are frontline and essential workers.

It is unfortunate that many other categories of workers who were called upon to report for duty during the height of the pandemic, were not offered an incentive payment. Those employers in the private sector who benefitted largely from increased volumes of business activity, in both the wholesale and retail sectors, would have kept all the spoils for themselves.

It would seem that instead of sharing the financial gains with their employees, they opted to lay off workers, introduce a short work week and implemented reduced hours of work. As a consequence, unemployment is now rampant, underemployment, poverty, criminal activity and gun violence are all on the rise. Though the state would have resorted to providing workers with monthly stimulus financial packages, there is the burning question to be answered of how this has impacted on stimulating workers to want to return to work.

COVID-19 gave both government and the private sector employers the opportunity to fully embrace technology in the workplace. It gave them licence for the introduction of the flexible work policy. This made provision for working from home or put in local parlance, ‘stand home and work.’

This has brought about a change in the business culture. The idea that flexible work arrangements would lend to greater efficiencies and higher productivity, is in the circumstances, an outcome that is questionable. Telephone calls are not answered, in some cases there is no face-to-face contact, customers are subject to standing in long lines in the elements of the sun and rain. All this has evoked cries of declining customer service.

While the focus has largely remained on the economic fallout and declining unemployment, the world has seen governments evoking emergency powers where they have ordered lockdowns.

Some governments have gone as far as to close their borders to any incoming traffic. In doing so, they have even denied their own citizens the right to re-enter the land of their birth. This is something which before the pandemic, was unheard of.

As the pandemic lingers on, the world fights to feed many who are now destitute, impoverished and homeless. There is the need to pay attention to the growing stress levels of people, some of whom are experiencing bouts of depression; resulting in suicidal tendencies. On the other hand, there are those who have grown obese and others who are having to cope with the pressures brought on by non-communicable diseases.

There is the problem of persons inability to access health care due to cancellation of outpatients’ clinics at hospitals and other clinics. This is compounded by the rescheduling of surgeries and other services. There is a growing sense of frustration, despair and a loss of hope.

The world has been so devasted by the COVID-19 pandemic that it would appear as if the social fabric of our societies is falling apart. Those countries which have endured restrictions on all forms of face-to-face activity including entertainment and sports, may for the pleasure of the people, witness entertainment packages produced in the form of ‘Stan Home’ parties.

Many might have been enriched with a diet of vulgarity and nudity that was boomed into their homes. Others who are morally conscious sat and watch in awe. Few it would appear seem not to have the tenacity to question whether the presentation of several forms of wuk-up as a representation of a dance, the display of acts that we have come to know as ‘skinning out,’ which is nothing short of indecent exposure, the advertising and promotion of the consumption of alcoholic beverages on the national stage, is a true representation of the culture of the nation and who we are as a people.

Dennis De Peiza is a Labour & Employee Relations Consultantat Regional Management Services Inc. website: www.regionalmanagement services.com


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