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#BTEditorial – Really! We beg to differ, Dr George

by Barbados Today
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Most of us wished we had complete control over how we are perceived by those around us.

Given the opportunity, we would have only flattering things said about us, while all the ugly or negative perceptions would never see the light of day.

Unfortunately, we are not living in La-La land and even in the most tightly controlled states, information has a way of getting around formal barriers.

In this connection, we were somewhat surprised by a statement this week by Chief Medical Officer, the Most Honourable Dr Kenneth George in a Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) TV Evening News broadcast, that the COVID-19 daily dashboard may no longer be relevant.

Though he did not say it, we wondered if this was a prelude to a plan by the Ministry of Health to do away with the data for public consumption.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a game changer in many respects. It has been devastating for our economy, but it has been the catalyst for significant change.

Chief among these is added focus on individual health and the  need for greater self-care. It has spotlighted the threats to our health care system by non-communicable diseases (NCDs).

People with NCDs have accounted for the greatest number of COVID fatalities over the last two years, we have been told.

As it relates to the way we interact with businesses, the pandemic has propelled the use of online services by a  population that was once reticent and a business community stubborn about making the necessary investment to facilitate such.

Now, even sole proprietorships, barbers, nail technicians, supermarkets and clothing retailers have put mechanisms in place, implemented electronic payment systems using apps and other methods, while regular citizens are sending funds to each other through transfers from bank accounts using their smart phones.

We must ask this question. Why then would anyone want to pull access to information that Barbadians have become accustomed to receiving?

The COVID-19 dashboard has helped ordinary persons to make intelligent decisions about what type of social activities they should engage and the level of precaution they ought to take.

Without instructions from any ministerial arm of the state, individuals can rationally decide what their level of risk might be, given the current level of COVID-19 infection on the island, or whether there was flu outbreak or monkey pox exposure.

While most people will recover from COVID-19, people with a compromised immune health status, may want access to the information for their own personal decision-making processes.

The medical professionals are saying to us that the pandemic has not gone anywhere. China is still battling an outbreak and that country has imposed lockdowns in some districts.

Dr George, we beg to differ on your suggestion about the COVID-19 dashboard’s relevance. In fact, we are calling for more information, and not only on COVID-19.

Why is the public not updated with statistics on a semi-annual basis or annually on HIV/AIDS infections and deaths?  Why are there not regular updates on Dengue infections, which we have been told are now endemic on the island?

Dr George, Barbadians do not want less, they want and deserve more information.

Just as we receive a quarterly report from the Governor of the Central Bank on the state of the economy; Barbadians should receive, at minimum, a semi-annual report on the state of our health and health system.

The Ministries of Health and of Education receive the two largest budget allocations of Government and there should be more access to information about what is happening in these two ministries.

There is a good reason why Prime Minister Mia Mottley has strongly urged her Members of Parliament to meet regularly with constituents to hear their concerns and respond to their needs.

A population that has access to credible and complete information is likely to respond more rationally to crises because they have a broader perspective.

The administration understands the value of communication and information. Someone needs to filter this message throughout government.

We have no beef with the goodly doctor, we simply differ with his position on what we perceive as a fundamental issue.

Barbadians are intelligent people. As much as they want to return to normal after two years of restrictions, they are not prepared to fly too close to the sun.

Some senior officials in the Ministry of Health have questioned why some businesses are still insisting on hand sanitization. It is because they have assessed the risks that remain.

Frankly, we are all a little safer knowing that sanitized, clean hands are touching the fruits in the supermarket, or serving us cocktails at a bar, or simply shaking our hands when they greet us.

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