National Insurance pension cheques have been prepared and are at the General Post Office (GPO), but they will not be delivered to pensioners until February 18, when postal services resume.
And, Director of Finance and Economic Affairs, Ian Carrington, has indicated that this was done to protect pensioners from being exposed to COVID-19 from congregating at post offices, banks, and supermarkets during the period of national pause.
Issuing a brief statement from the Ministry of Home Affairs, Information and Public Affairs today, Mr. Carrington assured pensioners that their cheques were sent to the GPO on February 8, with the intention of having them delivered to pensioners by February 10.
But, he said, acting on medical advice, a decision was taken to allow post offices to remain closed to protect the seniors during the period of national pause, which is expected to conclude on Wednesday, February 17.
“The medical advice received is that they don’t want the pensioners congregating at the post offices, at the banks, or in the supermarkets. They are the ones most at risk, particularly with comorbidities.
“While the cheques are ready, the decision made at the policy level was that they would be delivered on or after February 18 … to ensure that the risk of persons congregating and therefore them being exposed to COVID-19 is significantly reduced,” he said.
He added that the “national pause” was only for 15 days, but going forward, if longer periods became necessary, alternative arrangements for a special delivery system for pension cheques would be made.
Mr. Carrington explained that the country was placed on pause to safeguard the health and welfare of the elderly of Barbados, who built the country to what it was today, and who were the ones most at risk.
“When we were going “on pause”, the Government made the decision to allow those cheques that were already delivered to be cashed early and they were cashed early,” he said.
The Director added that in an effort to minimise the number of people moving around, particularly the elderly, Government also made a policy decision to look at the databases of the Welfare Department, National Assistance Board and the Household Mitigation Unit, and extend the care packages.
“That is why we have such a large number of care packages well into the region of 60,000 or so. This has not been done to disadvantage or to harm the elderly. It has been done to protect them and ensure that they do not become a fatality in this situation,” Mr. Carrington emphasised, noting that most of the persons who died were elderly with comorbidities.