A GUY'S VIEW: We can pull back our COVID-19 situation
Constructive criticism is always a good thing. I believe that is what I offer here.
The COVID-19 pandemic has catspraddled us, but I grew up with the sense that there was nothing beyond Barbadians. I believe that we can find a way out of the current situation, but we have to trust ourselves. Our con-fidence in the wisdom of those we look up to may be misplaced.
Some countries have thought it necessary to shut themselves down in an effort to combat the virus. While there are loud voices raised against this approach, the evidence in places like New Zealand and Australia prove that it is a valuable strategy to employ in the right circumstances. However, closing the door after the horse has bolted makes the corrective effort difficult.
Given the state of affairs in Barbados, our Government had little choice but to shut down some activities. However, we need to think through our approaches and not just follow what others have done. I have seen enough of the Prime Minister to believe that she may be willing to go in novel directions if she thinks this is necessary. In my view, novel approaches are necessary now.
We are managing a disease that is spread through social contact.
It is counterproductive, therefore, to create circumstances which force people to congregate. That is exactly what we are doing when we cut in half the shopping hours at supermarkets and shut them down altogether on weekends. This should be rethought.
Supermarkets and service stations should be open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Service stations should also return to offering unrestricted service. This would allow persons to drop in and pick up small items any hour of the night without having to go into a supermarket. These steps would allow shopping without bunching of people. Of course, in all cases, the proper protocols should be observed: temperature checks, sanitization of hands, the wearing of masks and social distancing. And absolutely no liming.
Service stations previously opened 24/7, so it would just be for them to revert to their normal activities. This would be a new development for supermarkets, but it would not be too big a hurdle.
I know of at least one supermarket owner who would welcome the opportunity to keep his businesses open all day and all night.
This could be done without infringing on labour standards. To facilitate this, it may be necessary to employ more staff to facilitate night shifts. At a time when unemployment is too high, this could be useful relief for some.
The issue of security should not be overlooked. Additional security would also have to be employed to cover the night shifts. It would also be practical for there to be special police deployment to ensure that there are no security breaches. This would be a more useful deployment than stopping sex runs and interrupting love relationships.
The best medical science tells us that exercise is essential to good health. My readings suggest that a healthy immune system is the best defence against the virus. This should be borne in mind when we address the subject of our protocols. We should do nothing to compromise the health of our people.
In this regard, the value of sunshine should be emphasised. The sun is a natural source of vitamin D. This is one of the elements that is used in the treatment of coronavirus because of its role in strengthening our immune system. The decision to ban Barbadians from the beaches and from going outdoors to exercise has obviously not been thoroughly thought through.
The beaches should be open all day. If there is a restriction on beach access, it should be limited to night hours. Providing beach access for 3 hours a day forces all beach-goers to assemble at the same time. Not a good idea if you want to control a socially spread virus.
The mental health implications of locking people in their homes are massive and should not be downplayed. Domestic tensions have risen and this will lead to some unwelcomed contact in the home. Many women feign disgust when their men disappear, but it gives them the opportunity to do other things that husbands think are beyond their wives. It makes for a tolerable household.
Suicide is becoming a major concern. In addition to the successful ones, I am aware of two unsuccessful attempts in the last two weeks. And that is only what I am aware of. We must bear in mind that it is not only the direct COVID-19 virus that could lead to death. There are other related events that could be quite troublesome.
We may have underes-timated the extent of the spread of the virus on our island, and, therefore, there is some doubt as to the extent to which the current shutdown will achieve its desired end. When we see the lengths of similar actions in other countries, our Government should not be afraid to take the necessary action if the need arises, but we should develop our own solutions. The current restrictions are hurting rather than helping the situation.
PS: Has anyone recognised that the way we assemble people for testing is a potential super spreader?