Barbadians are being cautioned to brace for more periodic lockdowns and COVID-19 restrictions.
The warning has come from Professor Don Marshall, Director of the Sir Arthur Lewis Institute for Social and Economic Studies (SALISES) at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Cave Hill Campus who said it would be difficult for the Government to find everyone who has been exposed to the virus.
He added that while local authorities are doing their best to manage the spread of COVID-19, they simply cannot control natural human social behaviour.
“The best case scenario [is that] we should be bracing for two-week lockdowns that are followed by openings again. Through that practice, people can begin to act a little bit more responsibly. But human beings are social beings and we could only act responsibly up to a particular point,” the social scientist said in an interview with Barbados TODAY.
“The urge to scratch your nose if it itches is something that is natural. You will remove your mask to do so and your hand might have, prior to that, been on a bannister where someone who unknowingly has the virus touched.”
The newly promoted Professor of International Political, Economics and Development Studies said while there is merit in pushing for behavioural change and urging people to exercise the greatest caution, that would not go far enough to prevent the ongoing periodic lockdowns.
“Understand that beyond that message, we will have these cases…we will have some spikes. We will have to embrace a new norm of what I think will be best practice, which is sharp lockdown periods that don’t extend beyond two weeks followed by cautious reopenings and so on. That is the way it is going to be,” contended the university scholar.
He noted that neither Barbados nor other world governments would be shutting down their ports of entry.
“We are truly a world economy and even if we don’t travel, the DHL packages are coming. There must be some business and investment travel…our leaders must interact and exchange with others around the world. In the best of circumstances, if you do go into physical spaces…you could still wind up with the virus,” the SALISES director said.
Professor Marshall is of the view that the solution to preventing future spikes of the virus may be found in an early warning software app that goes beyond temperature taking and tests.
“What really is cost to the public purse is the reliance on the testing purely by taking samples from human beings, as opposed to some kind of early detection systems that can be applied to one’s mobile phone app or can be applied in public places where the presence of peculiar viruses in the body may show up in a colour-coded way – an orange alert, a yellow alert to a red alert,” he suggested.
Professor Marshall contended that such alerts would also allow individuals to take control of their own health.
However, the UWI scholar told Barbados TODAY that the Government has control over bargaining for more public policy autonomy in a COVID-19 environment to match the appeals for fiscal space with international financial institutions.
“International financial institutions pre-COVID would have suggested to Barbados, through the BERT [Barbados Economic Recovery and Transformation] plan, for example, that they had to produce a surplus of six per cent and also they had to curtail social expenditure and avoid things like providing subsidies to businesses and so on,” he said.
“All that combined to reduce the scope of the state being able to have both the fiscal space and the public policy space to positively transform their economies,” Professor Marshall added. ([email protected])