EDITORIAL – Getting back to ‘normal’

Since the announcement that the country was preparing to welcome
visitors again to these shores, there has been much public discussion
from the radio call-in programmes to the rum shops, about the plan
that has been put in place and the various deficiencies that persons
believe exist.

With tourism being our lifeblood, no one can deny that to restart the
economy, steps have to be taken to get tourism going again. But
certainly it must be done in a sensible and measured way and
Government should and must be willing, if they recognise that the
process is not running as smoothly or effectively as they intended, to
go back to the drawing board and refine or revamp the process.

Now much of the concern from persons is that while Barbados is
covid-19 free so far as community spread is concerned, by opening the
doors to people from overseas, from countries where the virus
continues to be rampant, we are putting our citizens at risk.

We have been told that those arriving from countries designated as low
risk and who have not visited a country designated as high risk within
21 days prior to arriving in Barbados, are exempted from the
pretesting requirement. That extends to our neighbours in the
Caribbean from The Bahamas in the North to Guyana in the South. All
others coming into the country are required to get a PCR test with a
negative result 72 hours before arrival, and in the absence of such
results, they will be required to take a PCR test when they
arrive on the island.

Respectfully, we suggest that rather than 72 hours prior to arrival,
such a test should be performed five days prior and then those persons
be tested again on arrival to see if they are still negative. Given
the expense associated with those tests, persons should be
required to pay a portion of the cost of being tested, allowing
government to recoup at least some of the costs. We are not medical
experts, but if the average incubation period is between two to six
days, a negative test five days before and again on arrival would
likely be more definitive than one taken 72 hours before. Then we run
less of a risk of persons who arrive on the island  later being
diagnosed with covid-19, and putting undue pressure on our healthcare
system, including the quarantine and isolation centres.

Now on Sunday, we saw our first international commercial flight arrive
from Canada, and are set over the coming weeks and months to see more
international flights touching down at the Grantley Adams
International Airport, and on those flights there are likely to be
positive cases. The idea is not farfetched, as recently we were told
that some of the passengers on the repatriation flight from the United
States which arrived a few Saturdays ago tested positive for the virus. After the
fact, we were informed that all the passengers on the flight were
retested a week later and in addition to the first case recorded on
the flight, they had recorded an additional five cases. These tests
were done because Government decided to introduce the concept of the
twice negative rule for persons arriving from high risk areas.

Of interest is that the twice negative rule only came to light when
the public was informed that there were an additional five cases
originating from that flight. Certainly we are pleased that this
approach is being taken, but the question remains: is it enough to
keep COVID-19 from spreading in our community? This question is
pertinent especially given that those passengers were allowed to
self-quarantine after the first tests were performed. But can we be
certain that they all abided by the request and that none ventured out
and put the lives of unsuspecting Barbadians at risk?

It is hoped that going forward, Government seeks to be more
forthcoming with information of this type, as knowledge is power and
the wider public has an important role in helping to keep the virus at bay.

Barbados Advocate

Mailing Address:
Advocate Publishers (2000) Inc
Fontabelle, St. Michael, Barbados

Phone: (246) 467-2000
Fax: (246) 434-2020 / (246) 434-1000