Given the current state of the island’s economy and the fact that the country cannot afford any further lockdowns, Barbadians, especially those working both directly and indirectly in the tourism sector, have been urged to take the COVID-19 protocols more seriously than ever before.
The reminder came from Member of Parliament for St James South, Sandra Husbands, as she spoke in the House of Assembly on Tuesday during debate on a resolution to grant $50 million to the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) to shore up its Unemployment Benefit Fund.
“The re-emergence of the tourism industry is the main thing that will get our economy back on track. However, for that to happen, we will have to position our product in such a way that it can restore jobs to our people. We must bear in mind that it is a product that can be damaged from without, as well as from within.
“We have no control over external issues… but in terms of damage from within, the actions we take or fail to take can create issues – for example, the current situation with COVID-19 or increased criminal activity. But as COVID cases rise, people will stop travelling or a government can decide there is too much risk and blank travel.”
Husbands said any further lockdowns would make the situation at the NIS even more dire. Therefore, she said, it was important for Barbadians to take whatever measures were necessary to combat the spread of COVID-19, including adhering to the protocols and taking the available vaccines.
“If from within you get the spread of COVID because of variants, and that spread happens because people have reservations about the vaccines – for example, some feel they don’t need it, while others think it is dangerous – we must remember that all of this puts us at risk.
“And how will the NIS fare if we have another onslaught of lockdowns? The numbers outside of the country will fluctuate, but if we can keep our case numbers down and show people that Barbados is safe despite all the variants, then our tourism can rebound,” Husbands added.
The MP, who is also Minister in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, underscored the dangers of community spread, citing an observation she had made while working as a management consultant in the tourism sector.
“Every year, whenever visitors came in with a flu, hotel workers would pick it up, take it home to their children who would eventually spread it in their schools, and then that flu would affect the whole country. COVID will do that, too, if we do not obey the protocols. If we are going to create safe tourism we have to all work together. Government has its role to play and must do it well and consistently,” she added. (DH)