As the island prepares to undergo new COVID-19 restrictions from February 3 to 17, Government has committed to assisting the vulnerable through the provision of care packages.
Minister of Education, Technological and Vocational Training, Santia Bradshaw, in her capacity as Leader of Government Business, made the announcement during the televised COVID-19 update.
She said the effort is being coordinated by the Prime Minister’s Office and Cabinet, and revealed that they were in the process of sourcing items for the preparation of “about 60,000 care packages, which are expected to be distributed from “the 9th to the 12th of February”.
Minister Bradshaw said they had acknowledged it may be a difficult period for persons experiencing financial strain and other hardships, adding that one of the priorities, at this time, was ensuring persons’ nutritional needs were met.
“We also recognise in this environment that we have a responsibility to make sure that you also have not just basic food items, but also that you have access to agriculture produce, and in particular things which at this point in time can keep you healthy,” she assured, pointing out that the farming community was being included in this effort.
“We’re going to be working very closely with the Ministry of Agriculture, and of course, the farmers in this country. In particular, where they may have excess produce, after they have made arrangements with their normal suppliers, the intention is they would be able to take their produce to the Pack House provided by the Barbados Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation.
“And, they will facilitate the receipt of those items, obviously at a cost. And in turn, we would have those items packaged and placed within the basket of goods that we would be distributing to vulnerable households,” Minister Bradshaw disclosed.
As it relates to the identification of those who require assistance, she said that information was being obtained from the National Assistance Board, the Welfare Department and the Household Mitigation Unit.
However, the Leader of Government Business pointed out that measures were in place to help authorities identify others in need.
“You have those persons who …because of pride or other reasons are not generally the persons who come forward and say that they need assistance….We’re going to be relying on churches as well to be able to feed some of that information into the exercise.
“Also, we will be setting up a call centre in case persons don’t feel comfortable coming to the MP, or going to an Opposition person or the church, to call and indicate to the team that they have a need,” Minister Bradshaw explained, adding that figures from across the political divide would also be involved in that process.
She also welcomed contributions from charitable organisations and other entities, indicating that their efforts could help Government to reach even more persons.