An Italian national who has lived here for more than two decades has offered some timely advice for Barbados as it confronts its worst COVID-19 infection and death rates since the disease was first confirmed here in March 2020,.
Mario Porchetta, a development cooperation specialist who has worked in several African nations and throughout the Caribbean, says the island is at an extremely difficult place in its efforts to control the viral disease.
He explained that his homeland, which was once the epicenter of the disease in Europe, is now in a much better place because of the tough actions taken by the Italian government to limit the spread of the disease.
In a recent interview, Porchetta told COVID Dispatch he understood the difficult choices faced by governments in balancing health concerns with efforts to stabilize and grow the economy.
“This is a delicate area where a lot of controversies have arisen all over the world. It has increased the level of [division] among people based on the various opinions and ideas about vaccination or no vaccination, and what attitude to take,” he noted.
The 63-year-old said he was respectful of the various positions and the “freedom” given to Barbadians to choose to be vaccinated or remain unvaccinated.
“I have been in contact with my family in Italy from the very beginning of the pandemic and the position that Italy took . . . sometimes was criticised even by friends in Barbados for . . . imposing restrictions and limiting freedom of people.
“I think, depending on the context, depending on the culture, depending on the attitude of the social structure, there is somehow a need to take a strict position in order to protect the entire community,” he assessed.
Porchetta, who has worked with the European Union’s delegation in Barbados added: “Here, the situation is very complicated because of the implications for the tourism and foreign investment sectors, which the economy largely depends upon. I appreciate that it is a very difficult position the Government has to take in this regard.
“And some of the decisions that have been taken now are not free of risk. I don’t want to blame anybody, but I think we are facing an almost catastrophic situation with the increase in cases and the fact we are now obliged to home isolation. And with over 6,000 people infected in home isolation, it is very difficult to control them.”
He further explained: “It is more a case of sadness than criticism because the choices are not so wide. However, I think an even high level of restriction might help the situation at the moment. I fully understand the current position of the administration; however, I think the health and life of people, at this moment, should be a priority.”
He noted that there were some cultural similarities between Italy and Barbados when it came to family and socializing, which impact the way citizens respond to messaging.
Porchetta, who is also a photographer and musician, expressed concern about the increased spread of COVID-19 during the Christmas holiday season when there is expected to be more socializing and interaction.
“Sometimes the behaviour might look irresponsible, but it is a cultural thing,” he said.
“You can’t say to people don’t play dominoes anymore, because it is so rooted in the culture, like getting together at the rum shop; it is difficult to control that. Education and sensitization are important but sometimes cultural habits prevail over enforcement.
“Italy is a good example to follow because the disease is seemingly now under control and that is because of the strict measures that have been taken . . . . Sometimes a level of enforced discipline is required to avoid a very dangerous situation like controlling the spread of a disease.” (IMC1)
This article appears in the November 12 edition of COVID Dispatch. Read the full publication here.