Safety will be the top priority as Barbados enters the second of four phases for its exit of the COVID-19 lockdown.
This was emphasized last night by Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley, as she outlined a number of protocols to be enforced as part of that exit strategy, during an address to the nation on the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation on matters of national interest.
Barbados now has 81 confirmed cases of COVID-19, 39 recoveries and seven deaths. Prior to the rise in cases, Government instituted some measures to contain and reduce the spread of the virus.
This resulted in the imposition of a curfew, the mandatory closure of some business operations and restrictions in the conducting of ceremonies, such as funerals and weddings.
However, Ms. Mottley cautioned that exiting a lockdown before a vaccine or herd immunity was problematic, especially as 50 per cent of persons with COVID-19 were asymptomatic, and could have and spread the disease without symptoms.
At the same time, she noted that not exiting lockdown could also be a problem as economic statistics already showed a doubling of unemployment within the last eight weeks.
The Prime Minister told the nation that the plan developed took all those factors into consideration and was designed to ensure public safety, while allowing some level of economic activity.
“This plan is about three main things. First and foremost, it’s about public health and keeping people safe, post lockdown. Secondly, it is about exiting full lockdown and starting to bring back activities, so that we can go onwards and upwards and stopping the spread of severe risk to society and security from not doing so.
“Finally, it is about breathing and killing despair …. It is about breathing, hope, and killing the despair in our land. It is a plan that engages all of society and makes a subtle shift from command and control to a sense that we are doing something positive about our lives, our communities, and the circumstances in which we find ourselves,” Ms. Mottley stated.
She explained that one of the first things that needed to occur was the identification of safe people and those who were vulnerable.
“We want to work with you in communities to identify where these people who are most vulnerable live. And if we have to, separate [persons] through living arrangements …. And if that can’t happen within a family, then we need to look at the communities, and if it doesn’t happen within the family or the community, then the Government will work with you to start to identify options for living, so that those people can work again.
“Second, we need to lay down the criteria of safe activity … in particular physical distancing, personal protective equipment protocols, good hygiene practices and managing or eliminating all points of human contact. It may be possible to make much of what we do safe, using these protocols that we have been looking at, and the technology, but we need to monitor, and enforce it too,” the Prime Minister outlined.
The third area identified by Ms. Mottley was the need to ensure that safe people were doing safe things in a safe way beyond work. That, she said, included how workers got to and from work, and the overall management of the island’s travel and transportation systems.
The Prime Minister underscored the need to exit lockdown, but in a way that ensured that “safe people were going back to work, doing safe things, in new and safe ways, and vulnerable people isolated from them, in safe places doing only very safe things”.