A GUY'S VIEW: Between a rock and a hard place

Some would say between the devil and the deep blue sea. That may be where Barbados now finds itself.

Professor Michael Howard and Jeremy Stephen, two local economists, have painted a picture of challenge for the local economy as a result of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. But they have applied their training to tell us what we should all be able to see, with a little thought. Yes, there continues to be spin, but our eyes and common sense tell us what these two independent economists have articulated for us.

In trying to chart a course forward, we are left to ponder on the question: which comes first, the chicken or the egg? Do we stop importing the virus and try to fix the local situation, or do we find a way to fix the community and keep the floodgates open and depend on luck to survive?

Our poor management of our borders created this Covid-19 problem we now confront. The spin demands that the bus crawl be blamed, but if there was no Covid virus in the community, as we were told, none could make its way onto the buses.

We chose to continue to import the virus without pause, when the science we were following led others to take precautions to protect their citizens.  Apparently Barbadians are super human or our lives have no value. I am not sure which option to pick. Truth be told, it was inevitable that the virus would eventually be at large here. It would be naïve to expect that we could import the virus, have our businesses and workers serve the virus-laden visitors, knowing how the virus spreads, and not expect that there would be widescale transmission in the community.  Our authorities knew what they were doing and how they were exposing Barbadians and they went ahead and did it anyway.    

The economists are correct when they say that a shutdown would be economically catastrophic, but I do not understand them to be saying that we should do nothing about managing our borders in a way that would respect the lives of Barbadians.  Which comes first: the economy or the society?

However, if we look at events, the Government is not shutting down the country, but the virus is.  Businesses in almost every sector of our economy have been directly or indirectly affected by the virus. Fortunately, many of them have been responsible enough to take action to protect their workers and their clients, and by extension, the rest of the community.

And we may pray for another stroke of luck and hope that the shut downs in other countries prevent their sick citizens from coming to our shores. So far it seems that those that come have no regard for the safety of Barbadians, so our hope has to lie in no more like them coming.

If the present trend continues, we will soon be out of physical accommodation to house the sick that cannot pay to live in a villa or hotel, and we will have to further invade our public buildings and our schools that should be educating our children, and convert them into hostels or makeshift medical facilities.

There are precedents that we may observe. Our main sources for tourists, the United Kingdom and the United States of America, on Friday broke their previous records for infections and deaths from the Covid-19 virus. The Mayor of London declared a Major Incident in his city because the virus is out of control there. A Major Incident is declared when there is an incident like a terrorist attack, so serious is the state of affairs there. It is still amazing that we could see the wisdom of refusing to impose any restrictions on travel from that country.

The number of new daily infections in the UK is enough to fill a large hospital. And there is no end in sight, for the appeasing talk of experimental vaccines roll out will not stop the spread any time soon, and they know it.

America broke the world record for daily deaths from the virus, with over 4 000 people dying in a single day on Friday last. While one may point to the role of President Trump in the death of many of his citizens, that cannot be our preoccupation. We should be protecting our house.

I chose not to draw attention to some of the issues that are circulating with respect to our public health officials. They are certainly overwhelmed and I have no reason to believe that they are doing anything other than their best in the circumstances…

Someone said that when a man does his best angels cannot do better.

Barbados Advocate

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